USA TODAY Sports
PALO ALTO IS BEAR TERRITORY! SAVOR IT, CAL FANS!
As the game ends in a 67-55 victory, Cal fans declare the Whole Damn World to be Bear Territory, the team celebrates, the Straw Hat Band plays, and some woman proclaims it to be the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling game in the history of college basketball.
Later, Cal fans greeted their Conquering Heroines outside Maples Pavilion. The fans were happy. The players were happy. The coaches were happy. It was a big Cal party right there in a Stanford parking lot! (Who ever heard of a college where people can actually park, anyway?)
Cal fans greet Gennifer Brandon (who had her seventh double-double of the season, 14 points, 12 rebounds), Afure Jemerigbe, and Justine Hartman.
Cal fans greeting Brittany Boyd, who led the Bears with 19 points.
And here comes Stanford grad, but True Blue Cal Coach, Charmin Smith, whom Lindsay Gottlieb credits with much of the Bears' success on defense, along with Reshanda Gray, who executed that defense to perfection -- and who inexplicably hugs people wearing Stanford garb! (Credit to Reshanda's Stanford friends for seeing the light!)
Next up, Cal's brilliant head coach, Lindsay Gottlieb, and defensive marvel Talia Caldwell.
The players and coaches hugged and high-fived and chatted with the fans for a good 20 minutes before boarding the bus back to Berkeley. Yours truly got hugs from Brittany Boyd and Gen Brandon, a fist bump from the day's surprise star, Mikayla Lyles, and a handshake and a brief chat with Coach Gottlieb. All-in-all, it was a fantastic way to end a fantastic game!
Layshia Clarendon, Mikayla Lyles, Talia Caldwell, and other Cal players mingle with the fans during the celebration outside Maples Pavilion.
Okay, so that was the celebration. How the hell did we get there? Well, as we were walking out of Maples after the game, a Stanford fan stopped us to say: "Your defense was all over us like fleas on a dog." And that just about sums it up. The Bears' defense was just amazing. Yes, Chiney Ogwumike had 18 points. You aren't going to shut her down completely. But that is well below her average. And only one other Stanford player was in double digits. Meanwhile Brittany Boyd had 19 for the Bears (yes, Boyd outscored Ogwumike), and Gennifer Brandon, Layshia Clarendon, and the unexpected Mikayla Lyles had 14 apiece.
And the offensive rebounding! OMG! The Bears pulled down 20, to Stanford's 12. Cal's shooting percentage was a less-than-impressive 29.7%. But they kept Stanford to only 35.2%, 27.6% in the second half. And because of their offensive rebounding, the Bears took 10 more shots than the Cardinal.
And one more thing: FREE THROWS. After having been an Achilles' heel all season long, the Bears suddenly decided that this free throw thing was no problem. They hit 74.2% of their free throws, including an astonishing 82.4% in the second half. Free throw problems? What free throw problems?
But, enough talk. More videos.
The game opened strong for the Bears with Brittany Boyd ripping the ball out of Mikaela Ruef's hands on the opening possession, followed by Talia Caldwell getting an offensive rebound and drawing a foul.
The opening moments of the game. (And check out the great view Stanford gives to the Cal fans stuck up in the general admission section!)
Caldwell made one of two free throws, and the Bears started out with a 1-0 lead. Great! But the Bears' shooting was ice cold, and Stanford quickly built a 10-2 lead. Almost six minutes were gone before Layshia Clarendon finally scored the first field goal for the Bears. My inner Cal Fan of Doom took over, and I began wondering why I had driven all the way from Sacramento to Palo Alto just to sit in a nest of enemies and watch my team get destroyed.
But these Bears know nothing about inner doom. They slowly clawed their way back into the game. That slow clawing became a steamroller when Mikayla Lyles came off the bench and started nailing threes. In this sequence, mid-way through the first half, Gennifer Brandon gets an offensive rebound and put-back for 2, the Bears stop Stanford on the other end, with Reshanda Gray playing great defense on Chiney Ogwumike to keep her from getting a shot, and then Lyles nails a three to give the Bears their first lead of the day, 15-14.
Cal's #30, Mikayla Lyles, has not had a lot of playing time, and was averaging just over 2 points a game. She hit four three-pointers and scored 14 points in the first half. By hitting those outside shots, she helped loosen up the Stanford defense and created chances for other Bears in the paint. Her effect on the game is demonstrated by the panicked voice of the Stanford fan sitting near me, who keeps yelling to her team, "Stop 30! Watch 30!" . . . while #25 Gennifer Brandon hits a field goal to give Cal a 38-29 lead:
And thus, we reached halftime, with this score:
The Straw Hat Band was there, of course, stuck in the rafters with the rest of the Cal fans. Check out the old Stanford guy sitting in front of them at bottom left, with his fingers stuck in his ears (at :27 in the video). I wonder if he spent the whole game like that? Apparently his ability to listen to music has been impaired by exposure to the Stanfurd Banned.
At halftime, Stanford taunted the Cal fans present by parading The Axe and the Rose Bowl trophy around the floor. We refused to watch this atrocity and went to pee, instead. In the second half, we moved to the other end of the court, in part to be near the Cal basket, in part to try to find a less obstructed view of the floor, in part to sit next to the Cal Straw Hat Band, and in part to escape the well-meaning, but non-stop talking guy behind us, who was trying to teach his young daughters everything about basketball in the course of a single game. The highlights were his comments about sportsmanship, when he told the girls that it is wrong to boo referees and unsportsmanlike to make noise when the other team is shooting free throws. What kind of warped and twisted values are those kids going to have?
The second half was every bit as good as the first. Here, early in the half, Talia Caldwell's defense causes Chiney Ogwumike to miss two shots, and then a fantastic pass from Brittany Boyd allows Caldwell to score in the paint and put the Bears up by 12:
The Bears just completely out-hustled Stanford which, with under 6 minutes left in the game, seemed to realize that it was over.
And then it was!
The Final Score! Bears Win!
I leave to norcalnick the analysis of this fantastic game. He is much more knowledgeable about the x's and o's of basketball than I am. All I can say is that this is an incredibly special team, with an incredibly special coaching staff. And I am so glad that I was there once again to proclaim: PALO ALTO IS BEAR TERRITORY!