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Battle for the Bay nears as Cardinal look to continue success

Senior Karlie Samuelson remains an integral member of a senior core that has caried No. 10 Stanford Cardinal to success on the season. Now, in the second leg of the Bay Area rivalry, the Stanford seniors will play their last match at Maples Pavilion, not before playing in Berkeley on Wednesday. (Rahim Ullah/ The Stanford Daily)

In a short three-day turnaround, No. 10 Stanford women’s basketball (22-4, 11-2 Pac-12) heads into hostile territory as it travels to square off against Bay Area rival Cal (17-9, 5-9 Pac-12). Across the Bay, the Golden Bears are waiting for payback, looking to avenge last season’s competition, in which the Cardinal swept the series.

This game will be the first time the Cardinal meet their bitter rivals from Berkeley in the 2017 season. Even though the Golden Bears have struggled in conference play, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer assured reporters post-game that the team won’t look down on opponents and will focus on continuing to develop its high efficiency and accuracy on the enemy home court.

After a sluggish and inaccurate first half against the Buffs last Friday, the Cardinal women returned to quickly returned to top form. They came back to outscore opponents 127-75 in three consecutive halves. Stanford exited last weekend with two wins against Colorado and Utah, feeling confident for the final season stretch.

The key to Stanford’s success throughout the season continues to be its skilled ball movement and versatility in rotations. The Cardinal bench is deep enough that VanDerveer can rotate players without missing a beat when the leading seniors need their short rest. Against the Utes, the Cardinal had nine different players with double digits in the minutes column. The 80-point offensive performance displayed the extent of Cardinal offensive efficiency — ending the night by assisting 20 of their 30 buckets made.

Although the Cardinal bench has provided energy and impact on the court, a strong upperclassmen core leads the charge. Most likely, this same core represents Stanford’s hope at a long postseason run. Upperclassmen Karlie Samuelson, Erica McCall, Brianna Roberson and Brittany McPhee all have led Stanford to victory throughout this season, and each threatens to get hot at any point in the game.

In last Friday’s match against Colorado, McPhee dropped 26 points, just two shy of her career high and nearly double her average per game, while galvanizing a 40-point second half and bailing out a slow start for the Cardinal in the first half. After the game, Tara continually emphasized the importance of key performances from “different players on different nights.”

In contrast to the Cardinal’s space-the-floor mentality, the Golden Bears’ offense dominates in the post. Most of the action comes from sophomore center Kristine Anigwe, who is just shy of averaging a double-double on the season with 21.8 points per game and 9.6 rebounds. While this Cal team only has a 5-9 record in conference, Cal resilience showed late in the season last year when the Golden Bears reached the Final Four of the Pac-12 tournament after upsetting 2nd seed Arizona State. Anigwe led the way with a 10-11 night, leading the game with 24 points.

In the back of the court, a pair of versatile guard/forwards senior Courtney Range and junior Mikayla Cowing lead in scores and assists as ball handlers for Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s offense. However, if the Cardinal can effectively silence Anigwe’s dominance in the post, Stanford should leave Berkeley with a victory in the books, returning to the Farm. The Cardinal will face Cal again before the end of season for the seniors’ last game at Maples.

Before attention to celebrating the strong senior backbone of the Cardinal season at Maples, Tara’s focus remains on Berkeley. Stanford needs to ride efficiency and accuracy from last weekend in order to win in hostile territory and continue a run towards the postseason. Follow the battle for the Bay on gostanford.com or on the Pac-12 Network. Recaps will be available from the Stanford Daily.

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

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