If anyone has what it takes to bring the No. 2 Stanford women’s basketball team’s 74-game conference winning streak to a halt, it’s the squad that plays just across the Bay.
Cal (22-7. 13-4 Pac-12 Conference) came closer to beating the Cardinal (26-1, 17-0 Pac-12) than any other Pac-12 team this season when they dropped a 74-71 overtime nail-biter at Maples Pavilion on Jan. 28.
Now, with the Battle of the Bay rematch in their lair tonight, the Bears are planning to the show the world they’re worthy of playing on the national stage.
“One of the things that this group wants to do is to put Cal in the conversation of the most elite teams in the country,” first-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb said.
But knocking off Stanford is like slaying Goliath. In addition to holding the conference’s longest winning streak in history, the Cardinal has won 12-straight conference titles and earned four consecutive trips to the Final Four. On the sideline, they have a coach in Tara VanDerveer who just notched her 700th win on the Farm last weekend.
If the conference’s second-place team is serious about bookending the Cardinal’s winning streak (Cal was the last Pac-12 team to beat Stanford back in January 2009), they’ll have to contain the soon-to-be Pac-12 Player of the Year in senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who’s averaging 21.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, and her equally explosive sister, sophomore Chiney Ogwumike (16.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg).
“If there was a gameplan that has worked for containing the Ogwumike sisters, I haven’t seen it,” Gottlieb said.
The Bears have exerted a lot of muscle on the glass this season, outrebounding opponents by a margin of 13.5 per game, which could neutralize Stanford’s attack.
“We need to box out, it can’t just be a jumping fest,” junior center Talia Caldwell said.
Although the Cardinal boast a quicker backcourt than usual this year, the play of sensational freshmen point guard Brittany Boyd could be the Bears’ trump card.
“She starts our tempo, she’s a gamer, she creates for other people and she likes this kind of big stage,” Gottlieb said.
Stanford vs. Cal
WHEN: Today, 6 p.m.
WHERE: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley
TV: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
RADIO: KZSU (90.1 FM)