Jan. 18, 2009
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - A year ago, Alexis Gray-Lawson was a wreck after losing by two points at home against archrival Stanford. She pulled her jersey over her head and sobbed, as California had just cost itself the top spot in the Pac-10 Conference. The Golden Bears went on to fall against Washington and wound up in second place behind the Cardinal - again.
This year could be different, a first.
Gray-Lawson scored a career-high 37 points, converting two free throws with 1:09 to play that put her team ahead for good and scoring again with 21 seconds left to lift No. 11 Cal to a thrilling 57-54 victory over ninth-ranked Stanford on Sunday.
"I was crying about this time last year. I felt like this was kind of a rerun of last year," Gray-Lawson said of that 60-58 loss in February when her team was ranked eighth and Stanford at No. 7. "With a minute left, I knew the ball had to be in my hands. I went to the basket and happened to make it."
The Bears (14-2, 5-0 Pac-10) won their sixth straight and beat the Cardinal in Berkeley for the first time since a 64-59 victory on Feb. 12, 1993, and the first time overall since a win Feb. 4, 2007, on Stanford's home floor to snap a 14-game skid in the series.
"Amazing - thank you Alexis Gray-Lawson," said Cal's Ashley Walker, the Pac-10 scoring leader who faced double-teams all day. "I love her to death. She's a gamer. Thirty-seven, what can you say? She was in the zone."
Stanford's Kayla Pedersen and Jillian Harmon each missed 3-pointers to tie it in the waning seconds.
Jayne Appel had 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists playing all game in foul trouble for the Cardinal (13-4, 4-1), who had their five-game winning streak snapped.
The Bears - who have never won a Pac-10 title - rushed to the middle of the court to celebrate after the final buzzer sounded and the arena went crazy. It was a raucous environment for the nationally televised game at Haas Pavilion, where 10,126 fans came out for the first edition of the season series. The teams meet again Feb. 14 at Stanford. Last year's matchup in Berkeley drew a crowd of 10,525, the largest ever to see a Pac-10 women's game.
"It was as loud as I've ever heard it over here," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It was a great crowd. People were into it. It was a great game. It's very exciting. We love playing over here. I wish it was this way in every arena in the Pac-10. It was awesome."
With Cal trailing 52-49 with 2:56 left, Gray-Lawson was fouled on a 3-point try and converted two of the three free throws that followed. Devanei Hampton made two free throws with 2:19 left to put Cal ahead 53-52 and then blocked a shot by Appel on the other end. But Stanford got the ball back and Appel scored over Hampton with 1:26 to play.
After Gray-Lawson's two free throws at 1:09, Walker blocked a shot by Harmon at the 46.1 mark and Gray-Lawson scored on the other end.
Gray-Lawson scored 12 of her points in the first 6 1/2 minutes and shot 12-for-20 with five 3-pointers in 40 minutes. Her performance was the largest scoring outing by a Cal player - and first of 35 points or more - since Jennifer Bennett had 39 against Creighton on March 2, 1987.
"She can do it every night if she wants. It's a focus," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "She has the ability to do it and we're going to need her to do it."
Walker, who was averaging 21.6 points per game coming in, didn't attempt her first shot until scoring on a drive at the 11:27 mark of the first half. She finished with only five points to go with seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks.
Walker hit the floor hard with 12:24 to play after falling backward trying to draw a charge against Appel. She was down for several minutes under Stanford's hoop before being helped to the sideline with a cramp in her right calf. She returned with about 8 minutes left but still dehydrated.
Pedersen added 14 points and eight rebounds for Stanford, which didn't lead for the first time until going ahead 30-29 on Appel's free throw 1:34 into the second half.
Stanford missed too many chances in crunch time.
"I need to make that, but it shouldn't come down to one possession," Pedersen said of her last-ditch 3. "Once we got the lead we needed to put the hammer down and roll away with it."
Stanford, the eight-time defending Pac-10 regular-season champion favored to win again ahead of the Bears, held a 37-31 rebounding advantage but shot 5-for-20 from 3-point range and 36.7 percent overall.
The Cardinal were coming off a pair of 100-point games last weekend at home, including a 112-35 victory over Washington on Jan. 8 that was a school and Pac-10 record for margin of victory. Stanford followed that with a 102-53 win over Washington State two days later. But Stanford hardly looked in sync in the first half and began the game 8-for-27, missing seven of its first 10 3-point tries. Cal didn't shoot much better at 38.5 percent after missing its final five shots of the first half, but still led 29-26 at the break.
The Cardinal captured all three meetings last season and had won 32 of the last 34 meetings dating to Jan. 21, 1994.
Cal is back on the road next week, heading to Oregon where they will take on Oregon State in Corvallis on Thursday and the University of Oregon Saturday in Eugene.