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Cardinal defense shuts down Bears

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The smackdown of the Bay Area rival came early and often. Phenomenal, pesky and unrelenting defense characterized the night for No. 5 Stanford (14-1, 3-0 Pac-12).

In their most recent game, Cal (8-6, 0-3 Pac-12) limped out to six first quarter points against Washington — a season low. On Friday, the Cardinal held Cal to just five in the first quarter and a smothering three in the third. 

“Well, I wasn’t complaining about [the defense] too much at halftime,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer.

The Cardinal aced its first Battle of the Bay 73-40 on Friday night in Maples Pavilion. The upcoming task is to repeat the performance in Berkeley on Sunday.

Stanford shot 50% from the field in the first ten minutes; Cal shot 12.5%. Stanford shot 50% from the field out of halftime; Cal shot 7.1%. As usual, the suffocating defense started with sophomore guard Lexie Hull. 

“Lexie played really well, defensively,” VanDerveer said. “She was locked in.”

Coming into the game, Cal was +8.8 on rebound margin and Stanford was +8.5. The Cardinal won the game within the game 50-29.

“We try to give them specific things to focus on and I think rebounding was a big focus,” VanDerveer said. “I might have said it a couple times.”

“Just a few,” Hull sarcastically said in reference to the emphasis the coaching staff put on rebounding. 

Senior forward Nadia Fingall paced the team in rebounds with eight, followed by freshman forward Fran Belibi’s six. Neither player was a prolific scorer, Fingall’s five came on 1-of-5 from the field and Belibi had just six, but scoring contributions from 11 different Cardinal shared the burden. 

In the first half, though, much of the production went through freshman forward Ashten Prechtel, who scored 11 of her 13 points in nine first half minutes. Prechtel was 5-for-5 from inside the 3-point line and 1-for-2 from behind it on the night. 

“Ashten came off the bench for us and did a great job in the first half,” VanDerveer said.

In the second, freshman guard Haley Jones led the way with nine points to finish with 17 in 25 minutes. Like Prechtel, Jones was an efficient 7-of-10. 

The tale of the tape paints the dominant picture in Stanford’s favor. In the paint, Stanford excelled to the tune of a 44-12 advantage. Points off turnovers were won 26-11 and fast break points 11-6 as Stanford was able to play its preferred game: speed. The Cardinal also shut out their opponent 13-0 in second chance points for good measure in the halfcourt game. 

In the fourth quarter, VanDerveer sent out the end of her very deep bench, and Cal head coach Charmin Smith countered with a full court press. The visitors outscored the Cardinal 22-15 in the quarter, and Stanford committed nine of its 12 turnovers for the game in the second half. 

“We didn’t do a good enough job in the fourth quarter in terms of taking care of the ball or defensively,” VanDerveer said.

Still, VanDerveer was able to put all 12 healthy players into the game, including junior guard Estella Moschkau, who is now 7-of-10 from beyond the arc on the season after hitting 1-of-2.

Stanford is still waiting on the return of senior guard DiJonai Carrington, who has been out since the fifth game of the season, and the season debuts of senior guard Mikaela Brewer and junior forward Maya Dodson.

“We’re hoping that all three of our injured players will be coming back and they’re doing everything they can to get back,” VanDerveer said. “In the meantime, the train ain’t waiting at the station. It’s going down the tracks.”

The Pac-12 win was the 500th in Hall of Famer VanDerveer’s illustrious career. Smith, who played collegiately at Stanford, was on the court for many of those wins, including three Pac-10 champion seasons. 

“It’s incredible to play with her every day,” Hull said. “She has so much wisdom that she shares even outside of basketball.”

Stanford now finds itself at halftime of the larger home-and-home series. The expectation is that on its home court, Cal will come to play.

“We played well this first game, but obviously we have another one on Sunday, so we have to come out with the same intensity,” Prechtel said.

“We know we’re gonna have to play better on Sunday,” VanDerveer said. “We did some really good things and there’s some things that we can look at and even do a better job.”

Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. PT on Sunday from Haas Pavilion.

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Daniel Martinez-Krams '22 is a staff writer in the sports section covering football, women's soccer, women's basketball and baseball. He is originally from Berkeley, California. Contact him at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.