Jan 3, 2003

By JANIE McCAULEY

AP Sports Writer

STANFORD, Calif. - Tara VanDerveer believes her Stanford team became more balanced with star Nicole Powell on the bench.

The Cardinal had to learn to win on their own, not rely on Powell to do everything.

Powell played in her first game of the season Friday night, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds in No. 6 Stanford's 58-38 victory over No. 19 Oklahoma - and three others also scored in double figures.

The Cardinal welcomed the return of their preseason All-America forward, who was out with a bulging disc in her back and only practiced for the first time Dec. 26.

Powell did not start, but received a standing ovation when she checked into the game 4:54 in. She scored her first basket with 5:17 left in the first half, and finished 5-for-10 from the field in 24 minutes.

"It's definitely not the best I could play," the 6-foot-2 Powell said. "But I played hard. There were a couple shots I wasn't too happy with. When I came in, the crowd went wild. That was the most awesome thing ever. I appreciated it."

Azella Perryman had 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Kelley Suminski added 10 points and six assists as Stanford (9-1) won its fourth straight game. Susan King added 12 points and four steals.

Maria Villarroel scored 12 points and Dionnah Jackson added 10 for Oklahoma (9-4), which lost to Connecticut in the NCAA title game last season. The Sooners were held to their lowest point total in Sherri Coale's seven seasons coaching the team. They scored only 36 points in a 48-26 loss to Louisiana Tech in the NCAA tournament in 1995.

Stanford, undefeated since a 71-56 loss at then-No. 4 Tennessee on Dec. 18, started the second half with a 15-4 run to go ahead 44-26. King hit consecutive 3-pointers during the spurt and Oklahoma struggled to convert easy shots or control loose balls. The Sooners shot 28 percent for the game.

"I thought we missed a bunch of easy shots," Coale said. "In the first half, I don't think we could have scripted better shot selection. The more you miss, the smaller the basket grows."

Stanford has played four ranked opponents in its first 10 games - that's after only three games against ranked teams in 35 games last season. The Cardinal are 3-0 at Maples Pavilion against ranked teams, and the 28-percent shooting by Oklahoma was the lowest ever by a Stanford opponent.

"No one let us down on the defensive end of the floor," VanDerveer said.

Perryman scored six straight points for the Cardinal during one stretch midway through the first half as the Cardinal built an 18-8 lead. Perryman had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half as Stanford led 29-22 at the half.

Stanford's tight man-to-man defense early made it difficult for Oklahoma to find open shots, and the Sooners often were shooting as the 30-second clock was winding down. Oklahoma was 0-for-11 from 3-point range, including 0-for-6 by Chelsi Welch.

Second-leading scorer Theresa Schuknecht shot 1-of-9 for four points, nine below her average. She scored 27 in a loss to Tennessee on Nov. 10.

The only returning starter from last year's runner-up Oklahoma team is out for the season with a knee injury. Senior Caton Hill tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee on Nov. 26 against Sam Houston State, an injury that has forced Coale to shuffle her starting lineup several times. She already has used three different lineups.

Powell's timing seemed a little off, but she made several hustle plays that earned VanDerveer's praise. Powell committed three turnovers.

"It's a very difficult situation, and she handled it very well," VanDerveer said. "She didn't force things and let it come to her. Is that the best Nicole Powell? No."