It is a commonly held belief in sports that it is very challenging to beat the same team twice in a row. Stanford’s football team was able to pull off the difficult double against UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship. The women’s basketball team was not so fortunate; after beating rival California on Tuesday, the Cardinal (14-2, 3-1 Pac-12) came up short on Sunday, 67-55.
From the start, high-intensity defense allowed quick transition baskets for both teams. However, Cal (13-2, 3-1) was able to capitalize on second-chance points as they out-rebounded the Card on the offensive glass 20-12.
“We struggled the whole game running our offense,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “We really have to have guard leadership where they come down and are vocal and get us into things and are making things happen, and maybe defensively getting a turnover, and taking ownership a little bit. We were slow, we weren’t getting easy shots, we weren’t getting boards, we weren’t getting run outs or moving the ball to get good shots, and they were much more physical than we were.”
VanDerveer substituted early and often to try to find a group of five that could mesh with the powerful play of junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, but once again the task of carrying the team was left on her shoulders. Despite aggressive Cal double and triple teams placed on Ogwumike, she finished the game with 18 points and nine rebounds, just missing her 12th double double of the season.
“I put a lot on my shoulders but at the same time I know I can’t do that because we have to become a balanced team,” Ogwumike said. “One person can’t do it by herself. So I trust in my teammates that they’ll have the same fire power inside that I hopefully have and demonstrate.”
Ogwumike struggled to get good looks inside the paint as Cal’s posts targeted her from start to finish. But Stanford’s guards struggled to knock down outside shots in order to take some of the defensive pressure off Ogwumike, finishing 12-41 from the field (29 percent) and just 2-12 from behind the arc.
“It wouldn’t have mattered [if we played Cal] this week, this month or a month from now, if we’re not aggressive,” said VanDerveer. “They [Cal] got their hands on the ball, we weren’t moving the ball, we turned it over 16 times, and there’s it right there. Our last game, we took care of the ball better and they had more turnovers than us. It’s disappointing but I think that Chiney battled, and she needs some more help.”
Junior Toni Kokenis and sophomore Amber Orrange combined for 21 points; however, Stanford’s systematic offense was shaken by Cal’s defense, which forced turnovers early on and led to multiple shot clock violations. As was the case at Tuesday’s game, Cal went into the halftime with all of the momentum on its side, leading 39-31.
Junior bench player Mikayla Lyles scored all 14 of her points in the first half to get Cal rolling. Sophomore sensation Brittany Boyd led all scoring for the Bears with 19 points. Gennifer Brandon caused trouble for the Card down low as she recorded a double double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
A five-minute scoring drought by Stanford with 10 minutes to play in the game allowed Cal to extend the lead to 13, and despite an increase in intensity, the Card was unable to cut into the lead down the stretch.
“We have to get them [shooters] open, we didn’t screen well enough,” said VanDerveer. “We struggled offensively in that we didn’t run the things we wanted to run. They are a very athletic, quick, fast team, and they had a very good game plan.”
This loss ends the Card’s 81-game win streak against Pac-12 opponents and hands Stanford its first back-to-back home losses since 2001. Stanford’s last conference loss was also at the hands of Cal in January 2009, and its last double-digit home loss in conference was a 72-57 loss against the Bears in February 2007.
“The most painful loss on this court was not Cal, not this game,” VanDerveer said. “It’s probably playing Florida State, losing to Minnesota here, losing a tournament game…we just have to recover from this game and go on to UCLA and USC.”
Stanford will look to regroup from the loss and continue Pac-12 play as it takes on UCLA 8 p.m. Friday at Maples Pavilion.