The 87th Battle of the Bay between the Cal and Stanford women’s basketball teams was a memorable one. The Bears made a valiant effort against the 10th-ranked Cardinal, but would ultimately fall just short in their final home game of the season by a score of 72-66.
But even with the loss, Cal will soon have a chance at redemption on Stanford’s home court Sunday. If today’s game was any indication, the Cardinal would be wise to not take the Bears lightly after a very emotional and physical game.
“I do think if you lose the first one, there’s maybe some kind of advantage of just the quick turnaround with competitors in the locker room,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “It’s almost like pickup basketball. Let’s run it back. Do it again.”
Legendary Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer will surely have her team prepared, as the win marks her 1,003rd win overall. VanDerveer was honored pregame for her accomplishments, as she is only one of three NCAA coaches to have won at least 1,000 games.
VanDerveer might know a thing or two about stopping elite players. From the beginning, Cal’s Kristine Anigwe was swarmed by double teams down low and left open to shoot 20-foot jumpers. Anigwe was held to 10 points on 5/16 shooting for the game, unable to get much going offensively.
A well-coached team like the Cardinal took advantage of miscues by the Bears all night long. Stanford’s Alanna Smith was the main beneficiary of breakdowns in Cal’s transition defense, scoring a game-high 27 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Still, the Bears brought with them a physicality that even Marshawn Lynch would be impressed by. A bone-crushing screen by freshman center CJ West epitomized the Bears’ desire to make their presence known. That screen helped spark an 8-0 Cal run near the end of the second quarter, which was capped by a Mikayla Cowling dish to Penina Davidson that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
With the score tied up at halftime, Cal came out fired up with the kind of energy necessary to beat a top team like Stanford. Whether it was Cowling thumping her chest after a three, or Thomas smacking both hands on the floor on defense, the Bears showed a lot of heart in their effort tonight. The third quarter turned into a block party for Cal, as Anigwe and senior Courtney Range both came up with huge swats that got the crowd oohing.
Cal came frustratingly close to pulling out the upset, unable to pull away from Stanford despite the home support. The battle went back and forth in the fourth quarter, which had numerous lead changes. The Bears quickly found themselves up 61-57 with 5:31 left to play after a Davidson layup but then just as quickly found themselves down 64-61 after Smith hit a three with 2:40 to go. Cowling then drew a foul on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws to tie the game up at 64 apiece. But Cal was ultimately done in by poor turnovers and well-executed plays by Stanford down the stretch.
“A tremendous amount of resilience by our players,” Gottlieb said. “We were right there the whole time and I would say even in control down the stretch a little bit but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Once Stanford was up six with four seconds to go, Gottlieb gave a nice gesture to Range by sending her out to the applause of the crowd. Range, along with KC Waiters, then played their final games in Haas Pavilion.
Cal is still looking for another signature win to impress the committee to get into the NCAA Tournament.
“There’s no question about it, I know we’re one of the best 64 teams,” Gottlieb said. “As I’ve told our players, we’ve put ourselves in a situation here where it’s still under our control. We gotta get one.”
Jeffrey Liu covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]