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Recap: Tara VanDerveer wins 500th conference game as No. 5 Stanford demolishes Cal

The No. 5 Stanford Cardinal’s 73-40 victory over the California Golden Bears made head coach Tara VanDerveer the first women’s coach to win 500 regular-season games in one conference. Stanford freshmen Haley Jones and Ashten Pretchel powered the victory, scoring 17 and 13 points, respectively.

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Stanford freshman Haley Jones displayed her full offensive skillset, scoring 17 points in a dominating victory over Cal.
Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

At the turn of the twentieth century, women undergraduates at Stanford University, desiring equitable athletic opportunities, formed a variety of sporting clubs, including a basketball club. In 1896, the club secured its crowning achievement, a 2-1 victory over the University of California at Berkeley before a crowd of 500 women at San Francisco’s Armory Hall. However, university officials, believing it necessary to protect supposedly frail female bodies from physical exertion, soon chose to curtail women’s competitive athletic opportunities.

Fortunately, in the intervening 100-plus years, Stanford, as well as Cal, rediscovered the importance of women’s athletics, redoubling their commitment to cultivating excellent women’s basketball programs.

Stanford’s commitment was certainly evident Friday night in Maples Pavillon. Head coach Tara VanDerveer became the first women’s coach to win 500 regular season games in a single conference as her Cardinal defeated their intrastate rival, 73-40.

Rather fittingly, VanDerveer attained this milestone over one of her former charges in Charmin Smith, the first-year Cal head coach who played at Stanford from 1994-97 and returned to coach under VanDerveer from 2004-07. Other former players were in attendance for VanDerveer’s expected achievement.

However, Stanford’s win ultimately said more about the future of women’s college basketball.

The Cardinal were spurred by a very twenty-first century player in freshman Haley Jones. While Jones has experienced the to-be-expected freshman unevenness during her first season on the Farm, she flashed her multidimensional potential on Friday night, scoring a game-high 17 points. Fellow freshman Ashten Pretchel chipped in 13 points.

The offensive efforts of Jones and Pretchel were complemented by a team-wide defensive focus. Stanford prevented Cal from finding any semblance of an offensive rhythm. Across the first and second quarters, the Cardinal went on a 29-6 run as the Golden Bears missed 13 consecutive shots. For Cal, things never got much better. Leading scorer Jaelyn Brown managed only four points on four shots, and no Golden Bear scored in double figures.

Cal should be motivated to turn in a better performance when these two teams meet again on Sunday. As VanDerveer aptly put it, “It feels like it’s a halftime because we’ve got them again.” Smith suggests she and her squad will be ready for the challenge, stating, “In this situation we kind of got clobbered and I don’t mind playing them again on Sunday and coming out and being better than we were.”

Most simply, the Golden Bears must shoot better in Berkeley if they want to avoid again falling to the Cardinal and, more critically, avoid falling to 0-4 in conference play. In contrast, the Cardinal will aim to give VanDerveer another conference win and move to 4-0 in the Pac-12.

Next up

As noted, Cal hosts Stanford on Sunday, Jan. 12 (8:00 p.m. ET/Pac-12 Networks). The following week, both teams will complete the Oregon two-step. Stanford first meets Oregon on Thursday, Jan. 16 (9:00 p.m. ET/ESPN). Cal will face Oregon State on Friday, Jan. 17 (10:00 p.m. ET/Pac-12 Networks).