Women’s basketball outlasts Cal, takes fifth straight Big Game

Feb. 3, 2016, 1:16 a.m.

In an electric Maples Pavilion, No. 15 Stanford women’s basketball (18-5, 8-3 Pac-12) barely managed to survive in a laborious and hard-fought match against its unranked rival California (11-11, 2-9), winning 53-46 for its third straight victory.

(The Stanford Daily)
Junior guard Karlie Samuelson (right) led Stanford with 15 points on 4-5 shooting, but the Cardinal’s offense still struggled to score consistently against a tough California zone defense. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Early in the game, the Cardinal couldn’t build any offensive success despite finding some open looks. Against the Golden Bear’s 2-3 zone defense, the team shot a dismal 26.7 percent from the field in the first half. In the first quarter, the Cardinal only made 2 shots from the field, giving the game an eerie resemblance to some poor performances from earlier in the season.

After coming off a career-high 30 points in the team’s recent game against Washington State, offensive star junior guard Lili Thompson began the game ice-cold from the field, shooting 0-7 in the first half and going only 3-15 altogether. However, head coach Tara VanDerveer remained confident in her versatile guard, and Thompson provided a couple key baskets late in the fourth quarter to ensure victory.

“I think she felt rushed and maybe a little pressured,” VanDerveer said when asked about Thompson’s performance. “I thought she was pressing early. I told her, be patient and let it come.”

On the other side of the ball, the centerpiece to the Cal game plan was 6-foot-4 freshman center Kristine Anigwe, who played 30 minutes and led the team with 7 rebounds. Anigwe scored a team-high 17 points and also accounted for 2 blocks, which helped keep the Cardinal to just 22 points in the paint.

The key to victory for Stanford was its own suffocating defense. The Cardinal began the night with a lackluster first quarter in which Anigwe went 3-5, yet they eventually recovered and held the Golden Bears to only 28.6 percent from the field on the game. Despite struggling to score for the majority of the evening, the Cardinal were able to rely on this defensive success to keep the game close and to grab the momentum in the second quarter.

Cal ultimately lacked the depth to challenge Stanford as the game progressed in this physical manner. With the Cardinal using nine different players throughout the game, the Golden Bears’ seven-woman team was strained trying to compete with the same level of energy.

On the night, Cal needed their starting five to all play for over 30 minutes, with freshman guard Asha Thomas unable to rest at all. Meanwhile, the Stanford bench added 12 points, and the Cardinal were able to rotate a couple players at point guard to revitalize the pick-and-roll offense and stretch the Cal defense.

The Stanford offense has struggled against the 2-3 zone in the past. Before they broke the 2-3 zone against Washington this past Sunday, the Cardinal had been unable to find consistent offensive success while facing the scheme, and a strong presence from the two California big women kept the Cardinal out of the paint for a significant part of the game on Wednesday.

Overall, Stanford came out of the matchup with a key victory, moving it only two games behind league-leading Oregon State and Arizona State. As the season progresses, and with tournament season ever looming, the Cardinal will hope to start stringing together better performances to gain momentum for the tournament.

“I’m really excited about this team’s upside and the effort and the progress that we are making,” VanDerveer commented. “I see our team as being an excellent tournament team.”

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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