On Sunday night in Haas Pavilion, Cal will face off with Bay Area rival Stanford, currently the No. 1 team in the nation. As the old sports adage goes, “to be the best, you have to beat the best.” And while beating Stanford certainly wouldn’t make the Bears the best team in the nation, it would be an impressive victory nonetheless, as historically and currently, the odds are stacked against the blue and gold.
Dating back to Jan. 8, 1999, the Bears have won seven out of 48 matchups against the Cardinal. In their last 12 matchups, Cal has emerged victorious on two occasions. The Bears’ last matchup against their archrival from Palo Alto ended in a modest 79-65 loss. Former Cal forward Jaelyn Brown was by far the best player on the court that game for head coach Charmin Smith’s team, as she led the Bears in scoring and managed two blocks and four steals on the defensive end.
The Bears will have a lot on their plate in this upcoming game, to say the least. Along with its No. 1 ranking, Stanford is currently 3-0. It has four players averaging 10 or more points, with sophomore guard Haley Jones leading the way. Jones is averaging a monstrous 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season. The sophomore is also extremely efficient, as her field goal percentage on the year sits at an impressive 76.2. If the Bears want to win, they have to neutralize Jones and make the Cardinal’s role players beat them. To neutralize Jones, the Bears should force her to shoot from three and get her to the free-throw line. This season, she has only taken three shots from beyond the arc and missed all of them. Moreover, she is shooting just 66.7% from the charity stripe.
Although the Bears are 0-4 on the season, there is reason for optimism. In their last game against the University of San Francisco, the blue and gold saw extremely strong outings from freshman forward Dalayah Daniels and sophomore forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt. Daniels stuffed the stat sheet with 24 points (a career high), four rebounds, three assists (another career high), two steals and two blocks. She also shot an efficient 7 of 13 from the field. Meanwhile, Schipholt had a double-double, hauling in 20 points and 10 boards. She also did this while shooting an impressive 9 of 15 from the field and chipping in three blocks.
Moreover, the Bears showed extreme resilience in this last game, a trait that will be important against Stanford. In the second quarter, the Bears were down by 15 points, and yet they clawed their way back to a lead with 2:01 in the fourth quarter. Though they did not pull out the win, it was an impressive effort considering Cal’s youth and dearth of squad depth due to injuries.
Outside of Daniels and Schipholt, Cal will have to rely on its supporting cast to step up. Freshman forward Ugonne Onyiah showed in the team’s loss to USF that she is capable of stepping up and producing. Onyiah put up a solid 6 points on 50% shooting while grabbing a team-leading 11 rebounds. To put Onyiah’s numbers into context, she had only grabbed 10 rebounds and 14 points over the course of the prior three games. If Cal’s supporting cast can muster up enough scoring and rebounding to supplement Daniels and Schipholt, the Bears will give themselves a fighting chance against the Cardinal.
This episode of the Cal-Stanford rivalry series will tip off Sunday at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion. The matchup will air on Pac-12 Network.
Justin Kim covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].