It had been nearly four years since Stanford women’s basketball had lost to a Pac-12 opponent.
The Cardinal were riding a nation-leading 81-game conference winning streak last January — the longest active streak in the nation. No. 5 Stanford had defeated No. 7 Cal in Bear territory less than a week before, 63-53. Despite both sitting among the nation’s top 10, the Cardinal were the clear favorite — despite the fact that Cal led by eight at the half — until the last six minutes of the game.
In those final six minutes, Mikayla Lyles recorded 11 of her 14 points for the game to put Stanford out of reach. The 67-55 victory in Maples Pavilion not only gave the Bears streak-snapping satisfaction, but their first win over the bitter rival after a 10-game drought.
This season’s 21st-ranked Cal (14-6, 6-3 Pac-12) team hoped to repeat last year’s thrilling upset by taking down No. 4 Stanford (21-1, 9-0) at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal were back on top, ranked in the nation’s top five and undefeated in conference play. Thursday’s 8 p.m. matchup was the first of two back-to-back Bay Area bouts.
Just like last season’s exhilarating stunner, the Bears journeyed to Cardinal territory to take on a highly favored opponent. Just like last season, Brittany Boyd commanded the court for Cal. But unlike last season, the Bears were unable to pull of the tantalizing upset, falling to Stanford, 70-64.
The Cardinal dominated the first half, forcing two early fouls on Cal post player Reshanda Gray. Gray put up 32 points and 15 rebounds in the Bears’ authoritative victory over UCLA on Sunday. Forced to sit for much of the first half, Gray was unable to repeat Sunday’s powerful performance, recording no first-half points in seven minutes on the court. Gray’s absence allowed Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike to dominate in the paint, leading to Stanford’s 43-25 lead at the half.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Cardinal extended the imposing lead to 30. Cal responded with a full-court press, which seemed to rattle the seasoned Cardinal. The Bears had hit rock-bottom but astonishingly bounced back and climbed out of the 30-point hole.
Cal went on a 12-0 run as the clock ticked below 10 minutes, forcing Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer to call a timeout. Boyd stole the inbounds pass and sank the bucket to stifle any energy Stanford had left.
Cal allowed only one Cardinal field goal in a nine-minute stretch of the second half, extending the run to 20-4. The Bears cut the lead to single digits with less than a minute left when Boyd snatched a rebound, ran the floor and kicked the ball out to Afure Jemerigbe behind the arch. Jemerigbe sank the three and sent the Cal bench soaring. The bucket cut the lead to five points with 17 seconds left in the game.
The 25-point comeback gave Cal hope, but the Bears fell just short, ending the game down six, 64-70, after trailing by as many as 30 points in the second half. The hero of last game was silent in this one as Gray finished with zero points. Boyd, on the other hand, rose to the challenge, leading the Bears with 25 points. Stanford’s Ogwumike finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Cal will not have to wait long for a chance for redemption. The Cardinal will journey to Bear territory to take on the Bears in Haas Pavilion at 1 p.m. Sunday.