On Thursday night, Cal women’s basketball fell to Stanford by a final score of 72-66. Stanford sophomore Alanna Smith finished with 27 points and 6 rebounds while Cal junior Mikayla Cowling finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists. With the win, Stanford improves to 23-4 overall and 13-2 in the Pac-12 while Cal falls to 17-10 overall and 5-10 in the Pac-12.
“I still feel like the Battle of the Bay in women’s basketball is just a wonderful thing to be apart of,” Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said after the game. “I thought it was a terrific game, looking here 12 times the game was tied, 5 lead changes, we couldn’t close it out down the stretch, you know we had the lead and the ball, I thought we had some good looks and then we turned it over, but credit to them [Stanford] for making the plays that they need to make, and a terrific basketball game, I’m disappointed for our players that we didn’t get the win, but we’ll get an opportunity to play them on Sunday and hope to make some corrections.”
The bottom line for Cal is that they came close but got no cigar in the end. They played a hard fought game, played Stanford tough, and gave themselves an excellent opportunity to win. The difference was that during the final minute, Stanford made winning plays that Cal wasn’t able to make. That is why Stanford is a top-ten team in the country and why Cal is looking like a team that will not be in the NCAA tournament come March. It’s those final moments that set the contenders from the pretenders and we saw that tonight.
Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer prepared her team well and expected Cal to play them tough. Cal has shown the capability of hanging with some of the best teams in the Pac-12 and Stanford played like a team that was very much aware of this.
“I thought they played extremely hard,” VanDerveer said after the game. “It was a battle, I mean it was a great game and those are the kind of games that you don’t want to see either team lose, but I give them a lot of credit for working that hard, but today I think was Alanna’s day. She was the difference maker for our team, coming in knocking down her three, running the floor really hard, just working hard on defense, and you know I just think she was a real big difference for us and they didn’t have an answer for her…I was really proud of how we got down in the fourth quarter and we stayed with things. I thought our team showed some really grit, resilience, heart, whatever you want to call it in the face of the crowd and I’m really proud of how we played.”
Alanna Smith killed Cal in this game, scoring her 27 points on 9-18 shooting from the field, 3-5 shooting from three-point range, and 6-8 shooting from the foul line. She was very efficient, getting a lot of easy baskets inside and that ultimately is what did Cal in.
In addition to having Alanna Smith go off, Stanford did a really nice job defending Kristine Anigwe, holding her to 10 points and 5 rebounds on 5-16 shooting from the field.
“We were able to force some turnovers,” VanDerveer said of their defense on Anigwe. “I think that we were able to have really kind of for us just get in there and double her. Work as hard as we could to take away. She’s a great player and we know what she’s capable of.”
For Cal, when Kristine Anigwe is barely able to score in double figures, they’re going to have a difficult time winning. On the flip side, Cal did get great production from their core players as a group, which is something I’ve been calling for all season. In addition to Anigwe, Asha Thomas, Mi’Cole Cayton, Mikayla Cowling, and Penina Davidson all scored in double figures, so that was really good to see.
“Yeah, I mean it was definitely a big emphasis all week,” Gottlieb said of getting others involved. “Obviously expected them to really double team her [Anigwe] hard, so I wanted just to get in the mentality of everyone else ready to score. It’s one of the best things about our team, is that we have people who can score at every position and I thought generally we did do that tonight and that was a positive.”
For Cal, this was a game they needed to win and what’s heart breaking is that they came so close to winning but once again failed to deliver at the end. Going forward, Cal will get the chance to “run it back” as they say in pick up basketball on Sunday at Stanford. They did a lot of things good, they just need to find a way to build on that and get the job done in round two.
Note: Cal honored Tara VanDerveer before the game for her 1,000 career wins with a picture of the Bay Area. It was a very classy move by Lindsay Gottlieb and the whole Cal program to recognize VanDerveer for all of her contributions to the game of basketball.