Only hours after the Cal men’s basketball team completed a dramatic upset of No. 1 Arizona at a sold-out Haas Pavilion, the No. 21 ranked women’s team had a chance to pull off a similar feat on the very same floor against No. 4 Stanford.
Unfortunately for the Bears, however, it wasn’t to be. Cal (14-7, 6-4 Pac-12) fell to the Cardinal (21-1, 10-0) 79-64 Sunday afternoon and, in doing so, picked up its second straight loss to its cross-bay rivals.
The Bears started the game off with great energy and jumped out to an early lead thanks to baskets by Brittany Boyd, Afure Jemerigbe and Mikayla Lyles. When the first media timeout was called with 15:55 on the clock, Cal was up 8-7.
The two teams exchanged baskets for the next three minutes, and at the 12:05 mark, the Bears led 12-11.
That’s when Stanford turned it up a notch, as the team exploded for a 24-13 run that would see it enter halftime leading by 10 points. Cal’s defense lost a bit of its sharpness during the run, and its offense went cold.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and we just gave up a big one during that span,” Boyd said. “We weren’t really attacking. We weren’t getting shots.”
The half ended with Stanford leading 35-25, and given that the Bears had shot a measly 31 percent from the field, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb might have considered her team fortunate to still be within striking distance.
As it did at the start of the first half, Cal began the second period looking invigorated and ready to make a run. Baskets by Boyd, Reshanda Gray and Jemerigbe cut into Stanford’s lead, and excitement among the fans at Haas Pavilion began to rise.
Cal cut the deficit to seven, but the Cardinal then reasserted themselves and pushed their lead back up to 14 points.
With a 52-38 advantage and a little more than 11 minutes remaining, Stanford could smell blood. The Cardinal pushed their lead to as many as 19 points in the ensuing minutes and were nearly perfect from the free-throw line to close out the game.
Forward Chiney Ogwumike was key to Stanford’s victory, finishing the game with 29 points, eight rebounds and four assists. The All-American dominated on both ends of the floor, overpowering her opponents for bucket after bucket and locking down the Bears’ post players.
“You simply can’t guard her one on one,” Gottlieb said of Ogwumike. “She has an incredibly high motor for a post player. And defensively, they use her in a way that keeps her out of foul trouble but still allows her to be a disturbance on the court.”
Ogwumike held Gray to well below her scoring average and forced Cal’s leading scorer of the season to sit on the bench for much of the game due to foul trouble. Gray finished with only seven points in 25 minutes on the floor.
Despite picking up the two losses to Stanford, Cal still has time to assert itself as one of the top teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
“You never know what is going to happen in this conference,” Boyd said. “We just have to stick to our game plan, listen to the coaches and trust in ourselves. We’re still learning, but when we play together, we’re a really special team.”
Josh Netter covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].