Devanei Hampton had 22 points and 14 rebounds and the #21 California Golden Bears came of age on Super Bowl Sunday, upsetting the #8 Stanford Cardinal 72-57. The Bears are now 8-4 in the Pac-10, 18-5 overall.
Freshman Natasha Vital had a career-high 19 points, including key free throws down the stretch, and fellow freshman Lauren Greif contributed 15 points. The Bear defense harassed the Cardinal into shooting a season-low 26.6% for the game, including missing all 16 three-point attempts in the second half.
"It was a great game by our kids," said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle. "Stanford is such a good team. To be honest, we had not had two good practices, and we really challenged the team over the last two days - "What do you want?" - and they stepped up with the biggest win in our program's history. If you were a spectator, to see those bigs battle in there, it was just fun to watch. I'm so proud of the team. Stanford took a lot away from Dev and Ashley, and our guards had to come to play, and they knew that. So I think our inside-outside combination won the game for us today."
"I'm thrilled," said Hampton. "I didn't get to play here last year, which was something coach Boyle mentioned to me before the game. Hey, now I'm one-for-one! I'm just happy about the way our team played."
It was Cal's first win over a top-10 team since December 21, 1998, when the Bears took down #9 Colorado State 80-75. Cal also snapped Stanford's 50-game home winning streak against Pac-10 teams.
|AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
"I thought Cal played really well," said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. "Their post players stayed in the game. They scored even when they were doubled sometimes. I thought their perimeter stepped up and hit some shots that they did not hit the last time we played."
Stanford was hurt by the loss of starting point guard J J Hones, who was injured less than a minute into the game. VanDerveer said that she feared that Hones might have suffered a torn ACL.
However, it was the Bears who seemed to be in a bit of shock at the beginning of the game, missing shot after shot. Stanford ran off to a 5-0 lead before Cal hit its first shot, a jumper by Lauren Greif. Candice Wiggins hit her second three of the game, and a sense of déjà vu settled in among the Cal faithful, since Wiggins's prowess beyond the arc was a big reason Stanford had routed Cal in Berkeley last month.
Cal spotted Stanford a 10-4 lead before finding their offensive rhythm. Greif hit a 3. Vital stole the ball and hit a fast break lay-up. Stanford countered with a 3 from Claire Bodensteiner, but Vital responded with a pull-up. On the next possession, Cal had a fast break going, but Walker lost control and committed an offensive foul, her second. Rama N'diaye replaced Walker on the floor and immediately hit a lay-up. With Hampton tripled inside every time she touched the ball, Vital found herself open on the perimeter, and when she hit from distance, the Bears had put together a 13-3 run to pull ahead 17-13.
N'diaye continued to make her minutes count, as she had a steal and finished with a lefty lay-in over Smith. She also blocked a shot from Cissy Pierce, but when she picked up her 2nd foul (offensive), she was replaced by Krista Foster, who made her own presence felt. Foster hit a putback basket on a Greif air ball, and later hit a lay-up on a well-executed inbounds play. Stanford's timely threes by Cissy Pierce and Wiggins kept the Bears from pulling away. When Jillian Harmon hit a trey with 4 seconds on the shot clock Stanford had regained the lead, 31-30, to end the half.
|AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Ashley Walker defending Candice Wiggins
The game continued to seesaw in the second half, as Brooke Smith carried Stanford with her determined play and mid-range jumpers. For the Bears, freshman Lauren Greif matched Smith's effort, hitting a jumper to start the half.
"Lauren was feeling it," said Boyle. "She came into the huddle and said, 'Give me the ball.' She was very smooth with her one-dribble pull up."
When Greif hit a three-point basket at the 16:39 mark, the Bears had pulled into the first tie of the game (37-37). Neither team could muster much offense in the next 10 minutes, as Stanford threw up brick after brick and the Bears turned the ball over time and again.
With 7 minutes left in the game, the Bears had managed just a three-point lead (47-44), but the scoring drought was about to end.
Natasha Vital stole the ball and fed Hampton, who hit a lay-up. Hampton took over the game for the Bears, playing like an All-American and scoring 8 of the Bears' 10 points in this stretch. At the 2:48 mark, the Bears had built a 9 point lead (57-48).
"She fires me up when she plays like that, when she has that intensity," said Boyle of Hampton's performance. " I'm watching that kid play on the floor, and she was just dominating in there. She wasn't scoring early, but it was just the rebounds and the defense, and our team feeds off of that. When she brings it like that, she is unbelievable.
"Today, it just showed in every aspect of her game. She just came to play. She had the confidence and the leadership; I wanted our kids to follow her. Even her free throws. There was not one thing that she did not do well for us today. And we just need that presence from her. It was fun to watch."
Wiggins then fouled Greif on a missed three-pointer, but Greif only managed to hit one of the three free throws. VanDerveer decided to stretch the game by fouling and putting Cal's youngsters on the line.
"You never feel comfortable against Stanford," said Boyle. "Until the buzzer sounds, you never feel like you have it. They know how to get things done."
Some more adventures by Ashley Walker and Vital gave Stanford some hope, as the Cardinal closed to 6 with 1:23 to play. But the Cardinal continued to miss their outside shots and the Bears closed out the game on the free-throw line with Vital hitting her last 6 shots.
|AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
"Tasha had to guard Candice, score 19 points for us, and make her free throws down the stretch," said Boyle. "I think her play really settled us down."
"We just focused on getting a hand up in everybody's faces to contest their shots," said Vital. "Especially on Candice, since she hit 6 for 9 threes the last time we played."
As the horn sounded, Devanei Hampton threw the ball into the air and the team stormed to court to celebrate.
"Like Coach said, we're warriors," said Hampton. "We just have great chemistry on the floor. I lost my voice because Coach always says she wants us communicating instead of talking on the phone."
Afterwards, Boyle talked about the significance of the win in terms of the rivalry between the two schools.
"When you talk about a rivalry, you have to win some of them," said Boyle. "It hadn't been a rivalry until today, when we get to win one. Hopefully, we're creating that environment. I just thought it was some great basketball, and that's what we want to continue to build at Cal."
NOTES and QUOTES:
- Boyle on what was going through her head when Stanford decided to put the
Bears on the line near the end of the game, considering Cal's up-and-down
free-throw shooting this season: "It becomes such a mental game. But
then Dev hit one and Tash hit one, and I was trying to put them in situations
to get the ball. I felt that they were confident stepping up there. Hopefully,
we've gotten over the hump with that, and now we have the confidence
that we can win games with our free-throws."
- Ashley Walker, Cal's leading scorer and rebounder, had a sub-par
game, getting only 6 points and 6 rebounds, though she did block 3 shots. "Today,
like Ashley said, we switched off," said Hampton. "Some days,
we're on the same page, but some days she's up there and I'm
down here, and some days it's the other way around. But she was still
there with me. Those rebounds she had at the end were huge."
- Boyle mentioned that she was particularly hard on her players in practice
this week. "They heard my voice a lot," said Boyle.
Hampton's take: "She cares, and she wants us to work hard. She
expects us to be the best, and we want to be the best because she's
the best coach. She provides us with the game plan, and she wants us to trust
her, and we buy into it, and it shows on the floor."
- Besides communication on the floor, Hampton said the Bears focused on rebounding.
Cal out-rebounded Stanford 46-39.
- Cal shot 58.8% in the second half, while holding Stanford to 23.5%.
- The Cardinal shot an astounding 35 three-point attempts but hit only 6
(17.1%). The Bears, on the other hand, hit 3 of 7 (42.9%).
- Stanford may have lost their second point guard for the season; Rosalyn Gold-Onwude is also sidelined. VanDerveer thought it might have had an impact. "We
just seemed kind of glazy out there."
©Copyright 2006, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.
If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.
Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.