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Cal Women Give No. 2-Ranked Stanford a Scare in Pac-12 Tournament

Charmin Smith still thinks Cal is an NCAA tournament team after the Bears let an eight-point halftime lead slip away in their last game as a member of the Pac-12

Cal gave second-ranked Stanford a scare for three quarters, but the Cardinal dominated the fourth quarter to record  a 71-57 victory over the Bears on Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the women’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.

This was Cal's final game as a member of the Pac-12 conference. The Bears will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Cal had lost both regular-season games to Stanford, by margins of 36 and 37 points, but the Bears controlled the first half on Thursday, leading by as many as nine points and holding an eight-point lead at halftime. 

The Bears trailed by just two points entering the fourth quarter, but Cal missed its first six shots of the final quarter, helping Stanford (27-4) to score the first nine points of that quarter to take command.

"Obviously we're disappointed," said Cal coach Charmin Smith. "We had a game plan of coming out and showing some toughness and fight, and I think we did those things. Unfortunately we just went cold in the second half and couldn't knock down shots. And you have to continue t score when playing Stanford."

Stanford switched from its typical man-to-man defense to a zone defense to start the third quarter, and it limited Cal to 21.4% shooting in the second half. That included 3-for-25 shooting from three-point range after the Bears had been 5-for-12 from long range in the first half.

It was the top-seeded Cardinal's 12th straight win over Cal, although the Bears' season may not be over. Cal (18-14, 7-11 Pac-12) will probably not get a berth in the NCAA tournament, but the inaugural 32-team Women's Basketball Invitational Tournament and the 48-team Women's NIT could offer Cal a postseason berth.

However, Smith has not given up on landing an NCAA tournament berth.

"One hundred percent I think we're an NCAA tournament team," said Smith, who went to to detail why Cal deserves to be one of the 68 teams in the March Madness field. "We have three top-25 NET wins, and 12 of the 16 so-called bubble teams don't have any."

Cal is 0-8 alltime against Stanford in the conference tournaments, and on Thursday things started to fall apart for Cal in the third quarter.  The score was tied 41-41 with 5:16 left in the third quarter when Cal forward Michelle Onyiah took a blow to her face when Stanford's Cameron Brink hit Onyiah with the back of her head.  Onyiah stayed down for several minutes and eventually left the game and did not return.

"That really hurt us," Smith said.

Brink, the Pac-12 player of the year, played just seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, which helped Cal's first-half surge. Nonetheless Brink finished with 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds.

The Cardinal's top scorer was Kiki Iriafen, who collected 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting and also grabbed 18 rebounds.

Cal's top scorer was Marta Suarez, who had 14 points before fouling out.  However, Cal's leading scorer for the season, Ioanna Krimili, had just five points on 2-for-13 shooting, including 1-for-9 on three-pointers.

Brink sat out most of the first half with foul trouble, and that helped Cal take a 36-28 lead at halftime. The Bears led for nearly all of the first half and led by as many as nine points in the final minute of the second quarter.

Stanford shot just 32.3% from field and was just 3-for-15 from behind the three-point line.

Brink played just seven minutes in the first half. She picked up her first foul in the first few minutes of the first quarter, and she was tagged with her third foul with 5:18 remaining in the first half. In the few minutes she was on the court, she was not productive, scoring just four points on 1-for-8 shooting. Brink did collect six rebounds in the first half, however.

The first quarter ended with Cal holding an 18-12 lead, although the second quarter started with Cal ahead 16-12. A basket scored by Marta Suarez was counted with 3:43 left in the first quarter, but a review of the play between quarters indicated the shot came after the shot clock expired, so that basket was taken off the board. 

Cover photo of Leilani McIntosh courtesy of Cal Athletics

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