A tough battle in the Bay: Cal had the Cardinal on the ropes

Jan. 9, 2023, 1:27 p.m.

No. 2 Stanford women’s basketball (16-1, 4-0 Pac-12) traveled across the Bay for a Sunday evening matchup against Cal (10-5, 1-3 Pac-12). The Cardinal defeated the Golden Bears 60-56 for the second victory over their rival in the last month, this time with NBA superstar Stephen Curry in the stands.

Freshman guard Talana Lepolo got things started, scoring the first points of the game from beyond the arc. However, both teams experienced a dry spell for the next 4:45, keeping the Cardinal up for the first half of the period. After an exchange of scores, a classic 3-pointer by senior guard Hannah Jump followed by free throws from senior guard Haley Jones — with less than three minutes left in the quarter — produced a 6-point lead for the Cardinal. Cal outscored Stanford 7-2 in the last 1:09 of the quarter, shrinking the Cardinal’s lead to a single point heading into the second period.

Stanford achieved its greatest lead of the game, 7 points, late in the second quarter. Facing such a deficit with less than three minutes left in the quarter, Cal caught back up to tie it at 26-26 heading into halftime.

The Cardinal had a sloppy first half on offense, shooting 8-for-31 from the field and turning the ball over eight times. Cal managed to keep a nationally ranked team that averages over 41 points a half to just shy of 30 points at the half, while simultaneously matching Stanford’s score.

Within the first minute of the second half, Cal extended its lead to 5 points, its largest of the game. Stanford’s starters quickly responded: two layups from sophomore forward Kiki Iriafen, two free throws from Jones and a 3-pointer from junior forward Cameron Brink returned the lead to the Cardinal. For much of the quarter, Brink’s offensive output kept the Cardinal in the lead, one that was expanded upon at the end of the quarter by Jones and Jump: the former senior corralled an offensive rebound against a Cal triple team, and then assisted her teammate on a jumper from beyond the arc.

The fourth quarter had Stanford in a chokehold, as a loud Haas pavilion shook the confidence of the No. 2 team in the country, which trailed for the bulk of the period. Each time Cal scored, Brink seemingly responded with a score of her own, one of which came with 3:07 left in the period and tied things up at 56 apiece. Hope wasn’t lost for the Cardinal.

A steal by sophomore guard Brooke Demetre with 1:52 left gave Stanford the lead, as Jones drove to the baseline for a tough double-team layup on the ensuing possession.

With less than 30 seconds to go and the Cardinal up 2 points, Cal looked to its strong shooters from beyond the arc for a potential victory, or an open field goal to send the match into overtime. Guard Lelani McIntosh got a wide-open jumper on the elbow, but ultimately missed the shot. In the remaining 15 seconds of the game, Stanford resorted to a variety of its inbound plays to execute a simple task: inbound quick and retain the ball.

A Cal foul in the back court brought Demetre to the line for two foul shots, producing a 4-point lead for the Cardinal. Cal was shut out in the final 4:08, which, alongside Stanford’s zero turnovers in the quarter, helped the Cardinal secure the 60-56 victory.

Despite not being ranked, Cal gave Stanford quite the rough 40 minutes. This battle of the Bay saw only single-digit score margins the entire game. The last time the rivals had a score this close was in 2019, when then-No. 6 Stanford was defeated at Cal, 80-81.

Brink and Jones each managed another double-double in a matchup this season. Brink had 25 points and 17 rebounds while Jones posted 12 points and 11 rebounds. Together, they contributed 37 points, more than half of the team’s entire scoring output.

“There was this one part of the game where Haley told me, ‘We really need to take over.’ And so we did,” Brink said. “It was a really physical game. I think I did a good job of finishing through contact. It was a hard game and I’m gassed right now.” Brink had a stellar second half, scoring 18 of the team’s 34 points.

The Cardinal remain on the road to face the Los Angeles teams this weekend. First up is No. 12 UCLA (14-2, 3-1 Pac-12), a fellow top-25 team. Both squads enter this game coming off of difficult victories against their unranked rivals, looking to regain momentum. 

UCLA approaches this game after a 1-point home victory against USC on Sunday, 61-60. After losing to Oregon State on Jan. 1, the Bruins must keep this victorious energy alive to remain a nationally ranked team.

UCLA’s guards have had a strong season. Senior guard Charisma Osborne leads the team in scoring and rebounds this season. Freshman guard Kiki Rice has started every game, averaging 13 points a game, putting up 20+ points on a few outings. Freshman guard Londynn Jones has proven to be a powerhouse off the bench in recent games, scoring double digits against both Oregon State and USC. As an individual who has played for the USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team,  the 5-foot-4 guard knows how to play a confident game, even at a smaller height.

After scoring just 60 points against Cal, Stanford will be looking to regain its high-scoring momentum. In addition to a strong shooting presence, aggressive defensive pressure will also be key against UCLA’s shooters and rebounders. 

“We have a really big target on our backs, and we’ll continue to get teams’ best,” said Brink. The Cardinal will need to keep their on-the-road energy alive, as UCLA will be their first ranked matchup outside of Maples this season.

Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. PT on Friday at Pauley Pavilion.

Hawe is a staff writer for the sports section.

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