This game marked the midway point in the Pac-12, and for the first 23 minutes, it was going like all of Stanford’s Pac-12 games so far this year. They were enjoying a wide lead getting bigger as the minutes went by in the second half. Except, Cal went off script in the final seven minutes.
Stanford built up a big lead at the end of the first, 43-25, thanks to Karlie (KSam) Samuelson’s three at the buzzer, and unstoppable inside play by Chiney Ogwumike. Freshie Erica MCCall even got in on the act, doing her best Chiney impression inside, scoring in almost identical fashion off the low blocks. Stanford out rebounded Cal and Cal didn’t even attempt a free throw in the first.
Chiney Ogwumike goes for a lay-up against Cal's Brittany Boyd (Photo: Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Reps from the WNBA were here to watch Stanford’s All-everything Chiney Ogwumike to see if the stats don’t lie. Chiney is the only player in the country to rank in the top ten in field-goal percentage, scoring, rebounding, and double-doubles. What they learned is she can play defense. Well, so can the rest of the team, for a while. After all, this is a Tara VanDerveer production.
Stanford held Cal’s leading scorer Reshanda Gray scoreless. No, not for the half, for the whole game! Stanford’s Mikaela Ruef guarded her for most of the game and limited her to just five rebounds. And Chiney is the best “help defense” player we have seen, so it is usually not just one player guarding the other team’s best, think of it more like one and a half, with Chiney ready to step in.
Granted, Gray was in foul trouble and sat a lot the first half. Funny, we just looked up the box score and Gray only played 14 minutes, yet had two fouls. Why did Cal coach Lindsey Gottlieb keep her on the bench? She is your leading scorer, let her foul out. But we digress.
So Stanford is enjoying a huge lead. Taylor Greenfield hits two consecutive 3-pointers, to put them ahead by 30, 59-29 with 13 minutes left in the game, and all is right with the world, when “it” happened. That one play that changes everything, swings momentum, changes fortunes. Of course, the play we are talking about is the hard foul Cal's Brittany Boyd gave Stanford's Erica McCall. Our friends watching at home said the replay didn’t look that bad, and that Stanford was holding Brittany first. Heck, there was a lot of holding; Chiney got held on every rebound (see photo). The Twittersphere had the understated quote of the night saying, “refs are staying out of this one.”
But in real time, on Boyd’s foul, she gave a hard forearm to Erica, and when the whistle blew, she kept going after Erica until she angrily tackled her to the ground, and that is what C and R have a problem with. It was an out of control outburst, especially after the whistle. The refs huddled but did not make it flagrant.
Maybe it was the stoppage of play that threw off Stanford’s rhythm. Maybe it was coach Tara VanDerveer taking out Chiney with a comfortable 23-point lead after the foul. (Remember what we said about Chiney’s help defense?). We think others are a little used to having her around that they can let their players go by to avoid fouling because Chiney has their back. Well, she can’t while on the bench.
Chiney subbed out when the Stanford lead was 23. She subbed in a minute later and it was a 17-point lead.
Or it could be what one of the Cal blogs called, “playground mode.” Brittany Boyd would grab a rebound and put her head down and charge to the basket until she made it or was fouled, rarely passing. And Stanford let her. No one stopped ball. Brittany would end up with 25 points, 16 of them coming after the hard foul. C and R hate that kind of basketball, but it can be streaky and can get you points as Boyd proved. Stanford, whether with Chiney on the floor or not, cannot let a player take over the game like that.
But Stanford got some key stops in the final two minutes and Chiney scored Stanford’s final two baskets to hang on 70-64.
Chiney scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for her 16th double-double of the season.
Ruefie scored eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds and had excellent defense, as we mentioned.
KSam the Freshie came off the bench to score 14 points, going 2-3 from the 3-point line, including that one at the buzzer to end the first. But she looked nervous in stretches and only scored 2 points in the second.
Taylor Greenfield added 10 points, to mkae three players in double figures.
Freshie Erica (Baby Chiney) McCall had eight points with four rebounds.
Freshie guard Lili Thompson limped off a few minutes before halftime after appearing to bang her right knee on another player but she came back in the second with a bandaged appendage. She finished with eight assists and a 3-pointer.
Well, we won't have to debate this game for long, as with this quirky Pac-12 scheduling, Stanford travels to Cal to play them Sunday. Of course it is Superbowl Sunday and Twittersphere again said, “why do the powers that be hate women’s sports so much to schedule a great match up like this on Superbowl Sunday where it will be lost amidst the football roar (or something like that, it’s hard to get on a soap box in in 140 characters or less).
Which team will respond differently and how? Stay tuned for part 2.
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