Cal's No. 7 women's basketball team couldn't beat No. 5 Stanford on Tuesday night, but the Bears notched a big victory in the atmosphere department.
A boisterous crowd of 4,849 came out to Haas Pavilion to see the "Battle of the Bay," a much anticipated showdown of regional rivals and top-10 teams. In the end, the Bears couldn't solve the Cardinal's Pac-12-leading defense and fell 62-53.
Tuesday was one of Cal's best chances to beat Stanford in recent years. The Bears are ranked No. 4 in the RPI and have notched quality wins over Georgetown and Kansas. But Stanford, ranked No. 1 in the RPI, extended its conference winning streak to 81 games.
Cal was the last team to beat Stanford in a conference game, back in 2009. The Cardinal has beaten the Bears 42 of the past 45 times the teams have met, the type of numbers Stanford has against a lot of its Pac-12 foes.
"Obviously we want to win one of these pretty soon and make it the rivalry it should be," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "Our players are hungry and working for it."
The good news for the Bears is it wasn't like they were dominated or thoroughly outplayed by their nemesis to the south. In fact, Cal led from the 13:08 mark of the first half until the Cardinal went back in front 34-33 with 16:39 left in the game. The game was tied 46-46 with 8:46 remaining when Stanford scored eight unanswered points to take control.
The Bears will get another shot at the Cardinal in their next game, Sunday in Palo Alto.
"Five days is going to seem like forever," said Cal guard Layshia Clarendon, who led the Bears with 17 points. "I'm sure we're ready to go at them again."
The Bears certainly did some things well, most notably one of the things they seemingly always do well - crash the offensive glass. Cal registered 21 offensive rebounds which led to 22 second-chance points. But in the end, the Bears simply couldn't ever get it going offensively against Stanford's impeccable defense. The Cardinal entered the night leading the Pac-12 in scoring defense (51.8 points allowed per game) and field goal percentage defense (32%).
Stanford made it hard for Cal to get its post players going, sagging off the Bears' perimeter players and taking away passing angles inside. The Bears attempted a season-high 21 3-pointers and made only two.
"They have the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12 for a reason," Gottlieb said. "They're really good. They play percentages. They take away what is easiest. We know they are a great defensive team and nothing is easy. But I did feel like we had some looks we can knock down."