It wasn’t easy by any means, but the Stanford women’s basketball team, ranked #5 in the latest AP poll, pulled out a 62-53 win in a seesaw Battle of the Bay against #7 Cal on Jan. 8 at Cal’s Haas Pavilion.
Moreover, Stanford’s holiday break had ended and winter quarter classes had started the previous day. On the other hand, Cal’s spring semester classes don’t start until Jan. 22. Still, it was Stanford that emerged victorious in a hard-fought game.
The Stanford band, Tree and Dollies were all on hand to lend their support, along with a respectable contingent of red-wearing fans in the crowd of 4,849. The largest group of Cardinal fans sat in the rows behind the Stanford bench, but others could be seen throughout the large venue, which wasn’t filled.
As the Cal players warmed up before the game, several hugged their former teammate, Lauren Greif, who’s now a special assistant and video coordinator for Stanford.
As is usual for Cal, its band marched into the arena playing the Cal fight song. This happened just as the Stanford band was playing its fanfare for the Stanford players as they ran onto the court, making for a super loud Battle of the Bands. (The bands were more polite after the game as they took turns serenading fans outside Haas.)
Lots of hype introduces Cal players
After the Stanford starters had been introduced, the arena went dark and spotlights panned the crowd as an over-the-top video was shown. Finally the Cal starters were introduced, running through a passageway formed by their teammates as well as the Cal women’s dance team.
Cal fans had lots to cheer about through the first half as the score stayed close. It was 29-29 in the final seconds when Stanford had the ball and presumably a chance to score, but Cal stole it and made a fast-break basket to go ahead 31-29 at the buzzer.
The score continued to seesaw through about half of the second half until the Cardinal began to pull ahead for good. For the game, the score was tied 13 times and the lead changed eight times. Cal’s largest lead for the game was 6 points at 8:39 in the first half, while Stanford’s biggest advantage was 12 points with 1:09 to go in the second half.
For the game, Stanford shot 51 percent while holding Cal to 30.2 percent.
Chiney leads the way with 26 points
Much credit for Stanford’s victory has to go to junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who played just under 40 minutes and scored a game-leading 26 points. She also tallied six rebounds, three steals, three blocks and one assist.
Sophomore guard Amber Orrange contributed 15 points and had a team-high eight rebounds to go with three assists in her 40 minutes.
The other three starters also scored. Senior forward Joslyn Tinkle had 8 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal. Junior guard Toni Kokenis was right behind her with 7 points, two assists and one steal, while redshirt junior Mikaela Ruef had 5 points, five rebounds and one block.
Mikaela’s playing time was limited to 18 minutes because of foul trouble – she wound up with four. However, it was gratifying to see her to drive to the basket and score, thus contributing offensively. Strong defensive play and rebounding have been her hallmarks throughout this season.
During the game, the video board featured a trivia question: Who was Cal’s high scorer in its 57-54 defeat of Stanford on Jan. 18, 2009, at Cal? The answer was Alexis Gray-Lawson, who went off for 37 points.
What the trivia question didn’t ask was when was the last time Stanford lost a conference game. The answer would have been that same date. Since then, Stanford has reeled off 81 conference wins, including this most recent one against Cal.
Little room for complacency
Although this win upped Stanford’s overall season record to 14-1 and its Pac-12 record to 3-0, there is little room for complacency. Cal out-rebounded Stanford 45-31 and had 22 second-chance points to Stanford’s 8.
Also of concern is that Stanford got only 1 point off the bench, a free throw by sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield. Fans might have breathed easier if Stanford had made some 3-pointers, but all eight of its attempts missed the mark. However, Cal didn’t fare much better, making only two of its 21 attempts from beyond the arc.
On the bright side, Toni was back in the starting lineup and played 38 minutes after missing the entire Utah game and much of the Colorado game because she wasn’t feeling well, according to head coach Tara VanDerveer.
It also was encouraging to see redshirt freshman guard Alex Green traveling with the team. It has been unofficially reported that she might be cleared to play this month after recovering from an Achilles injury sustained early last season.
Stanford also did a fairly good job of taking care of the ball, committing only nine turnovers, including three steals by Cal. The Bears had 13 turnovers, six of them steals by Stanford. The Cardinal had 11 assists to the Bears’ eight. Blocks also were in Stanford’s favor, 7-2.
Both Cal and Stanford have a chance to rest and reassess before meeting again on Jan. 13 at Maples for the second round of the Battle of the Bay. If the teams meet for a third round, it would be in March at the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle. Since both are strong contenders, that wouldn’t be out of the question.