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Strong second half gives women’s basketball win over Cal

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In Friday night’s Bay rivalry, No. 15 Stanford women’s basketball (19-5, 9-3 Pac-12) needed a strong second-half performance and resilient effort to triumph against unranked Cal (11-12, 2-10), moving the Cardinal to 9-3 in Pac-12 play and giving Stanford its seventh straight victory in Berkeley.

(RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)
Junior forward Erica McCall (above) combined with forwards Kaylee Johnson and Kailee Johnson for 35 of Stanford’s 60 points as part of a dominant outing from Stanford’s frontcourt. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

The night belonged to the powerful trio that made up the Stanford frontcourt. Junior forward Erica McCall, sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson and junior forward Kailee Johnson combined on the night for 35 of Stanford’s 60 points in the game, and the trio helped Stanford outscore the Golden Bears by 20 points in the paint on the night.

At first, the night looked unfamiliar for the Cardinal, specifically on the defensive side, where Stanford gave up 34 points in the first half. Against Cal earlier in the week, the Cardinal gave up 10 fewer points, and the Stanford defense looked vulnerable this time around, allowing Cal to shoot a healthy 39.3 percent from the field.

However, the turning point in the game for the Cardinal came immediately following the intermission. Stanford rocketed on a 13-0 run to start the second half and held the Golden Bears to only 4 points in the entirety of the third quarter. Once the Cardinal took the lead almost halfway through the third quarter, the game belonged to the Stanford women.

“At the end of it, that third quarter killed us,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “You can’t have such a bad quarter against such a good team and expect to win the game.”

Again, the Stanford women were able to take advantage of their depth and versatility in rotations in the second half. While the short-handed seven-person Cal roster had to extend its minutes, the Stanford bench came with energy, scoring over a third of the Cardinal’s points. On the night, the Cardinal bench outscored the Cal bench by 17.

Sophomore guard Erica McPhee was perhaps most emblematic of the bench’s energy. McPhee was a huge force for the Cardinal, providing energy and spark to the Cardinal offense, scoring 12 points and also accumulating 4 rebounds in her 28 minutes of play.

Sophomore guard Lili Thompson, meanwhile, paralleled her night from her last game against Cal. After going scoreless in the first half, Thompson scored 7 points during the pivotal third quarter to propel the Cardinal to gain control of the game.

Overall, the Stanford team needed these two crucial wins over Cal. After starting out their Pac-12 games unconvincingly, the Cardinal have now won four games in a row and are inching closer to league-leading Arizona State and Oregon State.

As the team prepares for tournament action with the season winding down, the Cardinal will look to keep this newfound consistency in order to push for their championship ambitions.

The Cardinal will next host Arizona and Arizona State in a pivotal homestand on Friday and Sunday at Maples Pavilion.

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Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor ‘at’ stanford.edu.