BERKELEY, Calif. – Cal still had a chance.
It was 55-47 with 2:44 to go, and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer had to call a timeout with seven seconds on the shot clock. So, as one would expect, the ball found its way to Chiney Ogwumike, the Cardinal all-American. She turned through traffic, going away from the basket, and tossed in a line-drive hook shot to extend the lead to ten.
And so much for Cal’s hopes of dethroning Stanford as the queen of Pac-12 basketball. The final score was 62-53, but Ogwumike’s final dagger thrust – she finished with 26 points on 11 of 16 shooting – was the death wound.
Amber Orrange was the only other Cardinal in double figures, with 15, as Stanford missed all eight of its three-point attempts and was just ten of 17 from the free-throw line. Cal, however, was worse in both departments. The Bears did make two threes, but missed 19, and were just 13 of 21 from the line.
Layshia Clarendon topped Cal with 17 points, but was six of 20 from the field, and Cal shot just 30.2 percent from the field.
Despite the poor shooting, Cal led by six in the first half, and 40-39 with 15:03 remaining. The Bears hung around for a while longer, but when the Cardinal broke a 46-46 tie with 8:10 left, they led the rest of the way.
The Bears kept trying to jam the ball inside, but got nothing from Gennifer Brandon (two of eight from the field) or Talia Caldwell (one of three).
Ogwumike had 14 of Stanford’s 29 first-half points, but Cal totaled 31 as a late steal by Brittany Boyd led to a buzzer-beating basket that put the hosts up by a pair.
Trends started to emerge in the second half, though not unexpected ones. Cal began to dominate on the boards, but couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Stanford shot better, and finished with a 50 percent team mark.
Still, Stanford relied on its two stalwarts, Ogwumike and Orrange. A Cal defensive breakdown gave Joslyn Tinkle a wide-open layup on a good find by Orrange, and the Cardinal a 52-46 lead.
It went to 54-46 on yet another back-breaker involving Ogwumike. With just two seconds on the shot clock, Tinkle inbounded from near half court – she banked the ball off the backboard, Ogwumike caught it, laid it in and drew the foul.
So the scene will shift to Stanford on Sunday, where Cal has played surprisingly well over the years. That game will be on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. Eastern time, and the Bears will have to bounce back from a very big missed opportunity. After all, they were tied with eight minutes left, at home, and simply faded away.
Or maybe Chiney Ogwumike is just that much better.
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