In the first installment of what has been billed as the Battle of the Bay, No. 8 California was dominated by No. 7 Stanford. It was Cal's first loss of the Pac-10 season, dropping the Bears to 8-1 (17-3 overall), while Stanford is now 7-2 in the conference (17-3 overall). Cal's win streak ended at nine games, one short of the school record.
For Stanford, Candice Wiggins scored 28 points, hitting all 14 of her free-throws. JJ Hones had 12 points, all from beyond the arc, and freshman Kayla Pedersen had 11 points and 7 rebounds. Jayne Appel filled up the stat sheet with 9 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 blocks.
"Credit goes to Stanford; they had a great game plan," said California head coach Joanne Boyle. "The first half, we were really passive and didn't step up and take the shots we needed to take and questioned ourselves. That, and not guarding Candice [Wiggins] the right way, how we talked about in practice, that was disappointing. But I thought that Tara did a great job with their game plan and really took things away from us. We didn't do our job in the first half and we got down and had a big to dig ourselves out of."
"We had a week and prepared really well," said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. "We did a great job on defense, doubling off the people we wanted to double off of, and being patient on defense. Our perimeter shooting was the difference. It was fun. People were focused, and it was great to see that intensity. I think we learned that our team is battle-tested and showed a lot of poise."
In the worst half of basketball Cal has played all year, the Bears managed only 16 points in the first half, hitting six of their 27 shots (22.2%). Much of the credit goes to the Stanford, who doubled, tripled, and quadrupled the Cal posts inside, forcing Hampton and Walker to pass the ball back out.
|AP Photo/Jose Marcio Sanchez
"They have two big post players," said Boyle of Appel and Pedersen's effectiveness in shutting down the Cal inside game. "Most teams we play, they have a dominant post and a good ‘4' player, and so when you get mismatches, we can really take advantage. But they have two legitimate, top post players in the country, and so we didn't get mismatches. Between those two and their guard play, they are a top five team in the country."
Walker began fruitlessly to try to hit from the elbow and beyond the free-throw line. Without the usual productive post play, the Bears' offense ground to a halt.
"We worked on their sagging man; we knew they were going to play sagging man or zone," said Boyle. "I just don't think we moved the ball very well, and I think we just stared our posts down, and they weren't open. And by the time we decided to take shots, we questioned them. We just needed to come out more confident. We've needed to be more confident on the offensive end, which we have been—we've shot really well this year. Today just was not our day."
"I thought we were well-prepared," said Gray-Lawson. "We came into the game hyped. But we didn't finish the way we thought."
Stanford did not shoot that well themselves in the half (36%), but the Cardinal made a living at the free-throw line, hitting 11 of 13 attempts. Wiggins hit all of her eight attempts.
Stanford also dominated the boards 23-14, gobbling up all those missed shots from the Bears. Appel alone had 11 rebounds in the first half.
A 12-2 run by the Bears at the beginning of the second half whittled the lead down to 35-28. Stanford then went to the stars—Wiggins hit a three early in the shot clock, and then Appel connected on a turnaround jumper over a mismatched Lauren Greif. Appel found Jeannette Pohlen cutting to the basket, and Stanford had withstood the Bears' run.
"I thought that when we came out at beginning of the second half, we had a little momentum going," said Walker. "It's hard when they punch, you punch back, and they punch and then punch again. We didn't get the looks that we wanted on offense. That's something we'll have to go back to the drawing board for, our offense."
|AP Photo/Jose Marcio Sanchez
The Cardinal ball movement brought more uncontested shots for JJ Hones, who hit her third trey in the first 10 minutes of the half. It was a special game for Hones, who suffered a knee injury the last time Cal visited Maples.
"To me this was a big game for JJ," said VanDerveer. "With what happened last year, it has now come full circle. She has been playing very well. She takes care of the ball."
"It was kind of nice being able to start this one," Hones said. "Because I did not get play last year—only 45 seconds."
A Wiggins lay-up and a Pedersen baseline jumper extended the Cardinal lead to 57-35.
Alexis Gray-Lawson hit a three, Rama N'Diaye hit two free throws, and Natasha Vital made a lay-up to help the Bears make their last gasp, but then Wiggins took over with her drives and pull-up repertoire, and the Cardinal closed out the game with practice time on the triangle offense for their reserves.
Even with the loss, Boyle acknowledged that the burgeoning rivalry between Cal and Stanford is a positive thing.
"I think it's created a buzz and an energy for women's basketball in Northern California and on the West Coast to have two teams recognized across the country."
Boyle saw the game as an opportunity to promote women's basketball and thus was especially disappointed that her team did not have a good showing.
"I'm a little disappointed in myself," agreed Grayu-Lawson. "Because I could have been a better leader on the floor. Candice had 28. I'm very disappointed in that; I was defending her half of the game. I'll just go back to practice on Monday and work on that."
"We still control our destiny," said Walker. "This is just the first half of the season. We're eight and one, and a lot of people did not expect us to do that in the first place. We'll get another chance at them at the end of the season. But we have eight more games between now and then."
"We've proven this—we lose a game and then we come back and keep fighting," said Gray-Lawson. "Our coach always says, ‘One game is not the season.' We're still in the first place at eight and one. Hopefully, in the second half, we'll be nine and zero."
• Attendance was listed at 6,175. "It elevates the atmosphere of the game," said Wiggins of the big crowd. "It gave us energy."
• VanDerveer on Appel's seven assists: "Jayne has great peripheral vision; I think it's from her water polo passing days. She's very unselfish."
• More dry wit from VanDerveer: "Cal is a really talented team, and I'm proud of how our team battled. We definitely can take good things into next week. I wonder who we play next week. [Turning to her players] You guys know?" Of course, like Cal, Stanford will take on USC and UCLA, the two blemishes on the Cardinal's Pac-10 record.
• Cal came back and closed the gap on the boards to 33-30.
• Cal ended the game hitting only 31% of their shots. Stanford hit 45%.
• Both teams shot well beyond the arc: Cal hit 5 of ten, while Stanford hit 9 of 10.
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