Cal did not earn what would have been their second win of the season on Sunday against Stanford, yet they showed resilience and perseverance in many stages of the game. While the 33-72 scoreline did not reflect it, this game was truly a tale of two halves in which the Bears showed their immense growth from the start of the season.
The Bears quickly found themselves in a 9-0 hole to start the game, but they picked up the slack and didn’t let the lead balloon anymore, finishing off the quarter down 14-7. Stanford’s strong interior presence typically overwhelms many teams, but the Bears remained calm and were only out-rebounded by one after the first quarter, keeping themselves in the game.
While Cal’s second-quarter performance in its last game against Arizona State was one to remember, its second-quarter performance against the Cardinal might have topped that. Stanford made a 17-8 run to start the quarter, but the Bears punched back with an 8-0 run of their own to close the quarter. Earlier in the season, Cal might have faltered and let the game run away from them, but it kept its head down and kept plugging away.
Not only did the Bears perform well on the offensive side of the ball, but they also put on a defensive clinic. Overall, Cal shot a solid 44% from the field in the first half and held the usually uber-efficient Cardinal offense to just over 39%. The blue and gold was also disciplined on the defensive end, committing just two fouls in the second quarter. Leilani McIntosh and Dalayah Daniels led the way for the Bears, combining for 11 points on 5-7 shooting in the second as well.
Unfortunately, Cal could not build on their second-quarter effort in the second half. The Cardinal came out guns blazing, starting the half on a 9-0 run. Cal temporarily stopped the bleeding with a Daniels layup, but those were the only points Cal scored in the quarter. Stanford then went on an 18-0 run and never looked back, holding Cal to 1-13 shooting and forcing eight turnovers. Stanford showed off its depth this quarter, as six different players scored and, as a team, shot a blistering hot 47.8% from the field.
Understandably, the blue and gold could not turn the game around in the fourth quarter, as it found itself in a 31 point deficit heading in. It still put up a fight in the fourth quarter, as it was only outscored by 8 points and committed just two turnovers, but the game was well out of reach.
Daniels led Cal with 11 points on the afternoon and chipped in seven rebounds, while McIntosh and Michelle Onyiah combined for 17 points and 11 rebounds. Unfortunately for head coach Charmin Smith’s team, those performances were not nearly enough to overcome Stanford’s second-half defensive showing.
The Bears will need a short memory, though, as they are scheduled to play Oregon State this Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. Perhaps a road trip to Las Vegas will give this program a new lease on life after a poor season. If not, a first-round exit could be in the cards.
Justin Kim covers women’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].