With the best start in program history, the Cal women’s basketball team was pining to receive the elite status in the nation. But in order for that to happen, it first needed to be the best in the Bay.
The No. 7 Bears (12-2, 2-1) suffered a 63-52 loss to the No. 5 Cardinal on Tuesday night at Haas Pavilion. Cal’s first conference loss extended a 10-game losing streak to its rivals.
Though Stanford (13-1, 3-0) took the first points off a jumper from guard Amber Orrange, the Bears embraced the home crowd and entered the game slated as the true battle of top-10 titans.
With much of the pre-game talk focused on the matchup inside the post, Cal’s guards stepped up. Team captain Layshia Clarendon stepped up, notching four of the first seven points in the paint.
After two more points from Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike and a free throw from Cal forward Reshanda Gray, the Bears began to settle in. An Eliza Pierre fastbreak score gave Cal a slim 10-9 lead at the 12:16 mark — a lead that the Cardinal would not retrieve for the next 15 minutes.
As Clarendon set the tone for the Bears with her 4-for-5 shooting display, Ogwumike refused to let Cal run away with the lead. Ogwumike drove and shot at will, scoring 14 of the Cardinal’s 29 first half points.
Nevertheless, the Bears found themselves ahead 21-17 at the 6:48 mark. With both teams equal in all major statistics at the time, the only thing separating the teams was the bench play. Cal’s bench had added six points while Stanford’s had yet to even take a shot..
With Ogwumike keeping the Cardinal afloat, the score tied again entering the final minute of the first half. In the final moments, point guard Brittany Boyd stole the ball and was rewarded with a fast break layup to enter halftime leading 31-29.
“It was a great back and forth battle,” Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I felt pretty good at half time.”
Those good feelings wouldn’t last long.
With increased defensive pressure, Stanford made the Bears miss its first seven jumpers in the second half.
The severe shooting drought summed up the second half as the Bears painfully watched their lead dissipate. With Ogwumike and Orrange shooting 68.75 and 60 percents respectively, the Cardinal lead ballooned slowly into double digits over the final fifteen minutes.
Despite the Bears dominating the offensive boards 21 to five and second-chance points 22 to eight, they could do nothing to combat their poor shooting from the field.
On the night, the team shot 30.2 percent from the field and a season-low 9.5 percent beyond the arc. With 26 points from Ogwumike off 11-for-16 shooting, Stanford ended the game at 50% overall from the field.
“They shot 50 percent from the floor, we shot 30 percent, it’s kind of a miracle that we had a shot,” Gottlieb said. “The second you let up, they are going to make a play and we need to do a little bit better with that. We’ll get back to it and get ready to go.”
Vincent Tzeng covers women’s basketball. Contact him at email@example.com