March 6, 2004The resilient California women's basketball team ended its season with an 80-55 loss to No. 11 Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament Quarterfinals Saturday evening at HP Pavilion. The Golden Bears won three of their final five games to finish with a 12-17 overall record.
"It's a hard turnaround," said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer, the 2003-04 Pac-10 Coach of the Year. "This is the second year we have done that (played with less than 24 hours rest). We can hang long enough that first half, but Stanford really turned it on in the first five minutes in the second half. They turned up the defense a little bit, and they attacked us right away, and credit to them they brought it right inside. We just didn't have the same pop and zip that we had last night. It was somewhat emotional, but I thought we bounced back fairly well in the first half and maybe panicked a little bit in the second half. To Stanford's credit, they really jumped on us."
No. 9-seed Cal trailed 23-14 with 7:57 left in the first half when senior guard Nihan Anaz scored nine of her 12 first-half points to bring the Bears to within 32-29 at the break. The Bears, who lost their previous two games to the No. 1-seeded Cardinal (21-6) by 10 and eight points, respectively, were one, five and three points behind at halftime in each game this year.
Anaz, an All-Pac-10 selection, scored all 12 of her points in the first half to lead the club in scoring for the 18th time this season. Senior guard LaTasha O'Keith and junior forward Leigh Gregory contributed 11 points each.
The Bears shot 42.3 percent in the first half and continued their torrid three-point shooting from last night's Oregon win, converting 5-of-8 attempts. Meanwhile, the Cardinal hit only 39.3 percent from the floor but was 5-of-10 from long range.
Stanford, which received a first-round bye, improved its shooting percentage to 60.6 percent in the second stanza by utilizing their post players, who were held in check in the first half, and continuing its torrid three-point attack (6-of-10). Forward T'Nae Thiel, who was scoreless in the first half, posted seven points to lift her team to a 45-31 advantage by the first media timeout at 15:44. Thiel ended the game with 13 points.
Cal struggled to get its offense going in the second half but was able to get as close as 16 at 61-45 with 6:32 remaining after being down 20. The Cardinal outscored the Bears, 19-10, in the closing minutes.
Nicole Powell paced Stanford with 16 points. Sebnem Kimyacioglu had 15 points, all coming from three-pointers, and Kelley Suminski had 10 points. Stanford hit 11 three-pointers tonight to match Cal's tournament record set Friday against Oregon.
Center Olga Volkova had three points, four rebounds, an assist and a block shot in her final game at Cal. Volkova, Anaz and O'Keith will be missed by the Bears next season.
After recording a career-high 16 points against the Ducks, Cal sophomore forward Renee Wright posted eight points against the Cardinal and brought much-needed energy to the team. Wright, who averaged 4.7 ppg this year, averaged eight points over the final eight games of the season.
"I thought that we started off kind of slow," said Wright. "Coach (Horstmeyer) came in, and she pumped us up at halftime. We really wanted it and believed. We knew that in the second half we had to come out and show it and work hard. I think we started off slow, but we picked it up."
It's been an emotional year for Cal, which courageously continued Pac-10 play after the sudden death of teammate Alisa Lewis on January 19 to bacterial meningitis. The team began the season with its best start in 11 years at 8-2.
"Ending this year is probably the toughest year ever for me as a coach," said Horstmeyer. "We knew we came in as a very good ball club and played well early, even in the Pac-10. It ended up being extremely rewarding. Some people think that when you have a long year, and you end up losing as many as we did in a row, you just want it to be over. I never ever got that feeling from this team. We have to look at the win last night. That's how we have to remember the year."