It is definitely a rivalry, but one that is on hold for the moment. The Friday contest in the Battle of the Bay was a trouncing. The Sunday version was not much closer.
After splitting the regular season series the past two seasons, with the home team winning each time, No. 5 Stanford (15-1, 4-0 Pac-12) routed its cross-bay rival in consecutive contests. On Sunday, the final score was 79-65.
“They’re a confident team, and then we kind of blitzed them at Stanford,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “So they’re the wounded bear.”
“We weren’t happy with how we came out on Friday,” said Cal guard Cailyn Crocker.
“It was tough at Stanford,” said Bears guard Sara Anastasieska. “We couldn’t finish layups or we couldn’t shoot.”
As wounded animals do, Cal (8-7, 0-4 Pac-12) came out aggressive on Sunday and scored 13 points off 11 Stanford first half turnovers.
“I think we’re much better when we’re aggressive defensively,” said Cal head coach Charmin Smith. “We can force people into turnovers and get some of those easy baskets.”
“We knew this and we tried to tell our team this but they come out and were extremely aggressive,” VanDerveer said. “The aggressiveness pays off and they shot 20 free throws.”
Still, Cal’s efforts were not nearly enough. After a 50-29 thumping on the boards Friday, Stanford held a 40-26 rebounding advantage Sunday. Points in the paint went 52-20 in Stanford’s favor. Stanford led for over 38 minutes. Cal never led.
The win was the first true road win, an away game played at the opponent’s home court, for Stanford this season.
Junior guard Kiana Williams shot 10-of-18 for 21 points, only attempting three 3-pointers — and making one. Freshman guard Haley Jones matched the 21 points on 9-for-15, while taking and making a rare shot from range. Sophomore guard Lexie Hull added 15 more on 7-of-14.
At the end of the first half, despite going without a single bench point, Stanford was on top 36-29. Thirty-two first half points came from Williams, Jones and Hull.
Then, in the third quarter, freshman forward Ashten Prechtel buried three consecutive 3-pointers, and 11 total points in a three-minute span.
“She hit some big shots, she was open, she’s confident, and she was huge for us in the second half,” VanDerveer said of the freshman.
“Kiana and Haley are just really tough from beginning to end,” Smith said. “We did a really good job. They had zero bench points in the first half and then Ashten comes in and knocks down those threes and we just lost her. And I think that really took away our opportunity to try to keep it close.”
Smith played under VanDerveer and coached alongside her before moving to Berkeley. Now in her first season as the head coach, Smith spoke pre- and postgame with VanDerveer.
“For the most part during the game, I guess because I’m familiar, I’ve been there, I know when Tara is feeling you and she’s concerned,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of time in this game where we were making them feel us and that’s very important in trying to establish this as a legitimate rivalry.”
“There is a flow to Stanford basketball when they are in their comfort zone. You saw it a little bit in the fourth quarter,” Smith said.
A new big three
Before Cal closed the game on an 8-0 run, the combined scoring of Stanford’s big three of Williams, Hull and Jones matched the 57 from the entire Bears roster. What makes it all the more impressive is that they shot a combined 55.3% from the field.
Last year, the trio was made up of Alanna Smith ’19, DiJonai Carrington and Williams. With Smith now in the WNBA and Carrington sidelined with an injury, Williams has continued to score, Hull has emerged and Jones has been a stellar addition to the mix.
“Ki is the key,” VanDerveer said in reference to Williams. “She works really hard on both ends of the floor. A really smart player. Made some great decisions, great passes for us and hit some big shots.”
“I watched the video from the game on Friday and I saw some things that I didn’t do Friday that I wanted to do today,” Williams said. “I tried to let the game come to me and just make plays.”
Heading into conference play, VanDerveer said it was up to the coaching staff to help Williams find her mojo after consecutive games shooting around 25%. Since then, she has shot 54% and averaged 15.5 points per game. In Haas Pavilion, she also contributed five assists and six rebounds.
“I don’t want this to be my best game, there’s a lot of basketball left in the season,” Williams said.
Hull hauled in a game-high seven rebounds with three dimes, playing all but the last minute of action.
Meanwhile, Jones is the first Stanford freshman to score in double figures in the first four conference games since Nicole Powell ’04 did so in nine straight conference games to begin 2001.
“I think she should just keep doing what she’s doing,” VanDerveer said of Jones. “It’s working.”
Jones added four assists, four rebounds and was a perfect 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.
“I’m not gonna try to micromanage her,” VanDerveer said. “The girl’s got absolute skills.”
“I’ll throw in my two cents every once in a while,” VanDerveer said, referencing a specific sequence that led to one of Jones’ six turnovers. “Like sometimes, when you got the ball and there’s four people behind you, you got to know that they’re coming up behind you.”
“She’s starting to play some defense, and when she gets her defense, college defense, then that’s going to help us a lot,” VanDerveer added.
Road trip up the coast
There will likely be movement in the polls after both No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oregon State lost in Phoenix at Arizona State, and No. 1 UConn lost to No. 6 Baylor.
Those Oregon schools, and what might be the most difficult road trip of the season, will be Stanford’s next two opponents.
“I don’t think Tara needs any motivation to go play Oregon and Oregon State,” Smith said. “She’s going to be ready for those games. For sure.”
“Every single Pac-12 game is going to be a battle,” Hull said. “I think today will prepare us for those two games and those two games will prepare us for the two games the following week.”
The rematch of the Pac-12 tournament championship game will tip off Thursday at 6 p.m. PT.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.