Had Gray-Lawson's shot found its target, Cal would have all but secured its first Pac-10 championship. Instead, No. 8 Cal fell into a tie with No.7 Stanford, with both teams sporting 14-2 records. Cal is 23-4 overall, while Stanford improved to 25-3.
"It's obviously really disappointing, but I thought it was a hard-fought game," said California head coach Joanne Boyle. "The atmosphere that was out there and just how hard both teams were playing, it just hurts and it's sad that one team had to come up short. I thought it was an unbelievable effort by both teams."
Junior Ashley Walker led the way for Cal with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Devanei Hampton notched her fourth double-double in a row with 19 points and 10 boards. Cal's other players struggled, hitting only seven of 36 shots.
Stanford's JJ Hones and Jayne Appel each had 16 points, and Appel also 10 rebounds. Kayla Pedersen had 10 points and 10 boards, while Candice Wiggins suffered through 4 of 19 shooting to score 13 points.
"I think the game was all it was billed to be," said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. "To me it was a heavy-weight fight. Sometimes it wasn't really pretty, but it was very competitively played. Our team worked really hard and Cal worked really hard."
With both teams committing to shutting down the inside, Stanford bombed away from beyond the arc, hitting 4 consecutive three-pointers to open the game and earning a 12-6 lead. Cal tried to keep pace with Walker leaking out ahead for a tough lay-in. Vital hit a three, and Lauren Greif was fouled on a putback attempt and hit one of two free-throws.
Hampton hit a mid-range jumper to soften up the inside game. Alexis Gray-Lawson connected on a three, and Walker, playing against reserve Morgan Clyburn, hit a putback to tie the game at 13. The Bears' switching defenses confused the Cardinal, taking time off the clock on every Stanford possession. Wiggins was hounded by Vital, as Cal worked to deny her the ball.
Hampton then went strong against Appel for lay-up. On the next possession, double-teamed, Hampton passed out and re-posted and went around Appel. Walker converted on a 3-on-1 fastbreak to give Cal their biggest lead at 19-13.
After a scoring drought of over seven minutes, Stanford found Kayla Pedersen open for a three, and Stanford began its comeback. The Cal interior defense began to break down, allowing lay-ups and put-backs. With Appel sitting with two fouls, Pedersen showed why she's the conference's top freshman. She hit another three, and Stanford nosed ahead 25-24.
"They changed it to a box-and-one type defense," said Wiggins. "We worked on that, so it wasn't a surprise or anything. But I think that when my shot wasn't going, we had to look for other ways."
Walker hit both free-throws when fouled on a putback attempt. Hampton hit a tough inside shot, and it seemed that the Bears had regained momentum. However, Cal committed two untimely fouls, and Stanford hit four free-throws to knot the game at 32. Despite being held to 27% shooting, including 2 for 12 from Wiggins, Stanford's seven treys and marksmanship from the free-throw line (7 of 8) kept them in the game.
Hampton had a great first half, hitting for 14 points and 9 rebounds.
The Bears came out aggressive in the second half and earned their way to the free-throw line, hitting three of four to edge out to an early lead. Stanford responded with Jeannette Pohlen curling and hitting a soft shot off glass and JJ Hones hitting a fastbreak basket to grab the lead 36-35.
Lauren Greif's hands were everywhere, as the Bears upped their defensive intensity. Hampton hit a putback and Walker, recognizing that Appel had three fouls, drove past her for a lay-up.
Stanford came storming back on the strength of their own post game. Appel powered inside and scored five points in a row.
"At halftime, Jayne came out of hibernation and went to work," said VanDerveer. "She really took over the game for us. I'm really proud of how she played. That was kind of our focus—get Jayne the ball—and she delivered. I think the first half, she got some fouls and wasn't rebounding as well as we wanted. She got an earful at halftime and took it in and stepped up and I just thought that was the difference in the second half."
Devanei Hampton, Jayne Appel
"Jayne is a good player," said Walker. "She's big-bodied. She uses the back of her body well. She has a very nice baby hook around the basket. When she gets deep, she's hard to stop. She got some deep seals in the second half. Just as she was in foul trouble, we were in foul trouble, so it was about, if she gets deep, don't give up a foul. Better to give up two then to give up two and a foul and go to the bench. She made the cheapies, while we didn't make the same buckets."
Pedersen hit a midrange pull-up, and Hones hit a three to pull Stanford to a 46-39 lead. However, in that stretch, Wiggins picked up her third and fourth fouls on consecutive possessions, the latter on a strong drive by Vital who recognized the situation and isolated Wiggins.
Even without Wiggins, the Cardinal held on to their lead behind the two-man game of Hones and Appel. Hones hit a three, and Appel made two free-throws. Hones hit another three behind an Appel screen, then the next time down, Appel faked the handoff and instead drove for a lay-up.
With Vital taking a breather, Cal's offense ground to a halt, as Stanford worked to deny Gray-Lawson the ball. Hampton found herself at the elbow with no one to pass to, and Wiggins, playing with four fouls, gambled and tipped the ball for a steal, which she converted for a fastbreak lay-up. Wiggins then hit a double-pumped 12 footer to bring the lead to 60-56.
Cal had their chances. Vital had Hones one-on-one, crossed over and got her favorite lefty lay-up, only to have the ball roll off the rim. Hampton drove twice on Appel, who had 4 fouls, only to come away empty. On her second attempt, Walker grabbed the rebound and put it off glass to pull Cal to within 2, 60-58.
"We still got the same looks where we wanted," said Hampton. "Just down the stretch, we couldn't hit buckets, you know. It happens with every good team. You're good one day, and another day, you're not."
"They were doubling our post players, and we were trying to get to the basket to get fouled," said Boyle. "We were trying to get people in position, whether it was to Lexi to Ashley and Ashley off the dribble, but that wasn't there. I thought we were a little impatient down the stretch."
Running out of time, Cal then fouled Hones intentionally, and she missed the front end of the one-and-one. Walker then got blocked on the other end, with the ball falling out of bounds to Cal. Given a second chance, Greif's three pointer just missed.
Pedersen was fouled on the rebound and missed her own front-end. Gray-Lawson drove strong to the basket, but was swatted by Appel. Ros Gold-Onwude then missed another free-throw, and Vital dribbled across mid-court as Cal quickly called a time-out, with 4 seconds left on the clock, setting up Gray-Lawson's last second attempt.
"Coach told us just to get the ball on the rim, and I thought I did," said a still-teary Gray-Lawson after the game. "Sometimes it happens that way."
"We have to hold our heads high," said Boyle. "We fought hard, and we've done a lot of things to put ourselves in this position. This program is going places and will continue to go places, and I told the team down there, ‘It's supposed to hurt. But we have to let this go and finish our season out the way we know we can."
"It's March basketball at the end of February," said Walker. "It's going to do wonders for us. We're two top teams in the country and in our conference. We're both working hard, we're both striving for same goals. We still have more Pac-10 basketball to play. It's not over yet."
The game was seen by 10,525 spectators, the biggest crowd to ever witness a Pac-10 women's basketball game.
"Just to get over 10,000 people watching—the biggest crowd for Pac-10 women's basketball," said Boyle. "There are a lot of great kids out here [on the West Coast], a lot of great basketball. You just watched forty minutes of kids battling. I'm excited it was a TV game, so people can just see us and West Coast in general. It was a great environment."
"[In high school] I only went to the Cal and Stanford games, so it's a big turnaround," said Hampton. "It's good that it's competitive; the Pac-10 is very competitive in general. It's good to be competitive at home, it's a good atmosphere for everybody."
Coach Boyle and Lauren Greif
"It was great. Jayne looked at me at the beginning of the game and said, ‘It's like a war. It's like a war zone,'" said Wiggins of the arena visually segregated by fans in different colors. "It was a great atmosphere. People on the East Coast and other conferences probably get a chance to play in front of big crowds all the time, but to have that on the West Coast, I think it's great, and I hope it keeps increasing."
On how Cal's play differed from their last game against Stanford:
"I think we were more in the attack mode. We did a good job with inside outside, but we just didn't knock down shots. But I felt that we competed a lot more, and we worked our butts off. We out-rebounded them by ten. But you look at little things. We didn't knock down outside shots and we didn't do well at the line. If we talk about two things, those have to be the two things."
On the play of sophomore guard Natasha Vital:
"She guarded Candice a lot of the game and she was playing 94 feet. She knew they weren't going to play her—we've talked about it for three days. But she had to get the ball on the rim for us. It wasn't going to help us to jam it in where there were double and triple teams, and I thought she made a good decision about when to come in and when to pull it out and shoot it. She just got tired near the end, and I had to take her out. She's a good shooter, she's just got to step up and knock down shots, and it didn't happen for her today."
On Cal's offensive plan for the guards:
"We had to get the ball on the rim. Dev and Ashley are unbelievable rebounders; if we could get the ball on the rim, we had a shot, and that's what we tried to do."
On how the Bears improved since their last meeting with Stanford:
"Stanford was the first team to play us the way they played us. We had a ton of time to work on it. Everybody else played us the same way because we lost, so I knew the double team was coming. Dev knew they were coming. Just come in, go out, just be more confident in your passing, and it will come back to you on the other end. And for me, it was just, ‘Get on the board, get on the board, get on the board.' That was just what we did better this game then we did last game."
"In the first half, we weren't able to get our double-teams going and disrupt their inside game as much as we wanted to. But we did a really nice job hitting perimeter shots with JJ, Ros, and Candice. But we were excited to win. It would have helped my stomach a little bit if we made a couple of free-throws there at the end. Otherwise, I'm proud of how our team came in and played really hard, and Cal is an excellent team."
On the play of the Stanford guards:
"I thought JJ shot the ball really well, and ran our team really well. She hit a big three when Candice was out. And I thought Ros did a great job defensively and accepted that challenge to guard Alexis Gray-Lawson. Big play of the game was Candice getting that steal and converting on that lay-up. Candice really struggled today, but a real credit to Candice is that she's all about our team. She doesn't care if she gets one point, 21 points, or 41 points. It's all about our team winning and doing whatever it takes. It was gritty, it wasn't a pretty game. It was gritty, where people dug in and made great stops down the end. And we rebounded better the last five minutes of the game."
• Seniors Krista Foster, Kelly O'Connell, and Jessica Dolan were honored for their contributions to the women's basketball program. Foster is a captain along with Greif and Walker this year. O'Connell was on the team for three years, and Dolan is a team manager.
• There was no question that the Bears fought hard for this game. Near the end of the first half, flat on her back, Devanei Hampton let out a scream and kicked her legs in the air. She had just hit a tough shot despite a hard foul that brought her falling to the floor.
• Cal held Stanford to 34.5% shooting, while the Bears shot 34.9%. However, the Bears only shot 27% in the second half.
• Cal out-rebounded Stanford 49-39, including 20 offensive rebounds.
• Rama N'diaye played 2 minutes, picking up 2 fouls. Kelsey Adrian played 28 minutes and grabbed 6 rebounds.
• The Bears only hit 3 of 18 trey attempts and only 11 of 20 free-throws.
• The old attendance record for a Cal's women's game was 5027, set last year, also against Stanford.
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