Best Game: Women’s basketball at Stanford
To play in Stanford’s Maples Pavilion, the site of the women’s basketball team’s current 79-game winning streak, is not easy. To come back from 14 points down with eight minutes left? Near impossible.
On Jan. 28, Cal nearly accomplished the impossible, falling just short of upsetting No. 2 Stanford at its home court in a 74-71 overtime thriller.
There is no pinpoint time in which Cal just started clicking and underwent this incredible comeback. In fact, at the eight-minute mark of the second half, the momentum was all Stanford’s, widening its lead to double-digits for the first time.
For the last eight minutes, the Bears began hitting their shots. Guard Layshia Clarendon rose from her awful four-point performance to become the hero of the game. She scored 12 of the 22 points in the comeback, including the last five that tied the score.
But more importantly, the Cal defense was able to finally stop the Cardinal offense. The dominant Ogwumike sisters, who terrorized the Bears’ post defense all game, scored only two points in the last eight minutes.
Despite the loss, Cal’s comeback at Maples Pavilion was a season-defining performance. In their first contest against a top-10 team, the Bears held strong and relentlessly attacked the basket, which eventually opened up the game for them.
With the collective youth in the Cal squad and the departure of star Nnemkadi Ogwumike, there’s even a greater chance that Cal can snap Stanford’s home winning streak next year.
— Seung Y. Lee
Honorable Mention: Women’s tennis vs. UCLA
The Cal women’s tennis team’s April 13 upset win over top-ranked UCLA had all the makings of a sports classic. Visiting UCLA was undefeated on the year and had already posted a victory over Cal, a talented team looking for a marquee win in a historic rivalry match. Junior Annie Goransson battled back for a three-set win to give the home team a 4-3 win, which put Cal squarely in the midst of the Pac-12 conference race.
Strategically, the Bears’ upset victory showed the team’s capability with a full lineup, as defending NCAA singles champion Jana Juricova came back strong from a lower back strain. And while UCLA still remains the favorite for a national title, Cal’s win proved it belongs in the midst of that discussion.
— Luca Marzorati
Worst Game: Men’s basketball vs. South Florida
Coach Mike Montgomery “didn’t imagine that happening.”
Despite losing three of its last four games, the Cal men’s basketball still received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Yet the squad did not show up in the first 20 minutes of its 65-54 play-in loss to fellow 12 seed South Florida on March 14. The Bulls bulldozed the Bears in the first half, bullying a soft, thin and unaggressive Cal squad to a 23-point margin. The numbers speak for themselves — 13 points, 5-for-24 shooting, zero points in the last 8:55.
Cal was a better team than that. Unfortunately for the Bears, they peaked in February, not March.
“We weren’t hungry,” Montgomery said, after watching his team get eaten alive.
— Jonathan Kuperberg