On Jan. 28, the Cal women’s basketball team clawed back from a 14-point deficit to send No. 2 Stanford and Maples Pavilion into a rare overtime contest. On Sunday night in an 86-61 beatdown, that resolve and grit was nowhere to be seen.
In front of a nearly packed Haas Pavilion, the Bears were out-sized and outplayed by Stanford (28-1, 18-0 in the Pac-12) for 38 minutes, resulting in the worst home loss of the season. Once upon a time in the first two minutes of the contest, Cal held a 4-0 lead, its first and only lead of the night.
For the first few possessions of the game, the Bears (22-8, 13-5) looked sharp and fast, blazing down the lane in their trademark pace. Guard Brittany Boyd took advantage of the slow-reacting Stanford defense to score all four points.
Then Cardinal forward Joslyn Tinkle took the first 3-pointer of the night, cutting the Bears’ momentum. It was the beginning of Stanford’s 43-point first-half rampage.
Tinkle’s shot was the harbinger of Stanford’s dominance from behind the arc. Due to Cal’s lax perimeter defense early in the game, the Cardinal scored eight 3-pointers in the game. Reserve forward Bonnie Samuelson hit three consecutive 3-pointers in the first half.
“Stanford’s been looking all year for that kind of shooting to complement the inside game,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “If they can bring someone like Bonnie to become their marksmen, it can be very troubling.”
Stanford’s success on the perimeter, usually a weaker facet of its offense, eventually opened up space inside the paint for the Ogwumike sisters. Unlike the January game when the Bears persistently double-teamed older sister Nneka, Cal chose to gamble by not double-teaming either sister.
The Bears’ four post players rotated around to defend the Ogwumikes. In the first half, Cal held the sisters to nine points each. But during the second half, the Bears couldn’t contain Nneka any longer; the senior finished her last regular season game with 22 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
The Ogwumike sisters shined on the defensive end in containing their Cal counterparts. None of the Bears’ four post players could score against the duo — centers Talia Caldwell and Justine Hartman combined for a poor 5-for-18 shooting display.
“Minute-by-minute, I don’t know if there are anyone that can outwork them,” Gottlieb said. “I think that Nneka and Chiney might be the best post combo to ever play college basketball.”
With Cal’s offensive bread and butter smothered by the Ogwumikes, the bulk of the Bears’ offensive burden was rested on the guards. Aside from the first two minutes, Boyd was a non-factor, scoring eight points on 15 shots.
Substitutes Eliza Pierre and Gennifer Brandon were the only two Cal players to score in double digits.
Adding to the offensive woes was the re-emergence of the Bears’ poor free throw performance. On a night when Cal needed as many points as possible, the Bears went 10-for-21 from the charity stripe. The Bears went 5-for-15 in the second half alone.
On a macro scale, the tilt had little impact on the conference standings. Both the Cardinal and the Bears were locked in the 1-2 spots of the Pac-12, clinching first-round byes in this week’s Pac-12 tournament. Cal will play the winner of the Utah-Colorado game next Thursday in Los Angeles.