Second time is a charm, too. So the Stanford Women’s Basketball team figured out a better way to beat Cal. Forget building up a 30-point lead only to have it slip away and barely win in the final seconds, as it went just four days ago at Stanford. This time, Stanford, on Cal’s floor, knew to instead keep a nice 10-point cushion all game long. Well, first go on a 24-7 run late in the first half to go ahead 33-19 to build that nice lead, mostly with All-Everything Chiney Ogwumike, then, play they score a basket, we score a basket.
Well, it wasn’t that simple. At first Chiney, who plays center and has made a living of scoring off the low blocks, in particular with a wicked one-handed bank shot off the glass was settling from long jumpers and even a three point attempt. There was an air ball in there somewhere. Then she said, oh forget this, and went back inside and scored at will (Can’t remember if that was before she lost a contact or after).
If any team were to look at film of when Stanford lost in the last two years and Chiney had a bad game, they would see it was because she was pushed off the low block and had a bad angle to the glass and couldn’t bank a shot in (in particular the UConn games). Teams have tried to replicate that but C and R have noticed that in the last few games Chieny has now adjusted and when pushed outside the paint or has a bad angle to the basket, she hits a floater from the side of the basket, eliminating the glass. Guess what, it goes in. And she did that a lot during Cal Part II.
The ESPN 2 announcers said Cal’s plan was to double team Chieny with a guard coming over to help. But the guard would come late (basket for Chiney) or arrive on time and Chiney would pass out of the double team to set up her teammates. That opened up driving and scoring opportunities for players like freshie forward Karlie Samuelson, who finished with 16 points and guards Amber Orrange, who added 13 points.
Chiney Ogwumike looks for an open teammate as California double-teams her with defenders (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)
Chiney scored a game-high 29 points to go with eight rebounds. Mikaela Ruef scored nine and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds with five assists and once again played shut-down defense on California’s leading scorer Reshanda Gray. Gray got her first basket with about a minute left in the first and finished with had just seven points with five rebounds after being held scoreless three days ago. Gray also fouled out with 5:09 left.
This being Superbowl weekend, they say defense wins championships. The defense of Ruef and Ogwumike limited California’s top three post players (Reshanda Gray, Gennifer Brandon, Justine Hartman) to a combined 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting.
Last game, a hard foul by Cal’s Brittnay Boyd sparked Cal and lead their comeback from the 30-point deficit. Early in this game, Cal's Gray took her arm off the basketball to swing at Chiney and hit her in the face. The announcers said that should be flagrant...yet the refs just kept it as a regular foul. This time, though, it did not spark a rally. These teams don’t like each other.
The refs made a point to call contact in this game, though, a contrast from last game. Cal had seven personal fouls before Stanford got whistled for one with about eight and a half minutes left in the first. Everyone’s favorite ref, Melissa Barlow, gave the Cal PA announcer a sharp warning after announcing Stanford’s first foul with a little too much emphasis. Don't think she appreciated the sarcasm, said Twitter.
Still, Cal has swagger at home, and in the second half, their best play was guard Brittany Boyd driving down the lane and drawing contact. And again, Stanford did not stop it. Except for the final minutes, both Ruef and Chiney blocked her. Boyd would finish the game with 20 points.
Cal had to play the foul game the last few minutes and Stanford went 12-of-14 from the free throw line over the final four minutes to take a 79-64 win. Karlie Samuelson made all six of her attempts from the line over the final 1:40. Stanford was 24-30 from the line.
Stanford is undefeated in Pac-12 play and now plays everyone again. The announcers pointed out that Stanford will have a hard time not because the teams they play are ranked in the top 25, but because everyone will bring their "A" game when they do play them. We will see if the unblemished record stands.
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