Pac-12 Tournament: Stanford and Cal overcome deficiencies to seal semifinal wins, stage set for title game

LOS ANGELES – The stage is set for a Stanford-Cal Pac-12 Tournament Championship showdown today at Staples Center.

The fact that the first and second seeds are facing one another is no surprise to some, but the way each got there is: both teams struggled in their games and both rallied to overcome deficiencies to seal wins.

The Cardinal lead Arizona State 29-15 at the half, but went ice cold in the second. They made just three of their first 24 shots, going for over nine minutes without a field goal, and shot 15 percent for the period. Stanford lead 39-32 for over three minutes until the 3:44 mark, when Nneka Ogwumike made a layup. The Sun Devils three times cut the lead to six, but the Cardinal made crucial free throws in the final minute to seal the win.

Nneka Ogwumike lead Stanford with 24 and 12 rebounds points, while Chiney Ogwumike added 12 points and 13 boards.

Cal got off to a quick start against Washington State, and lead until close to the end of the half, when the Bears began missing shots and committing turnovers. Cougar free throw shots in the final minute knotted the score at 26 at the break.

WSU went on a run to begin the second half, and lead by as much as five. While Cal outrebounded the Cougars 59-25, they also bested them in turnovers, 25-11 – from which WSU scored 24 points. A Layshia Clarendon layup at the 12-minute mark gave the Bears back a 38-37 lead, but they didn’t ignite until the 4:31 mark, when a Brittany Boyd layup put Cal up by seven, and out of reach for the Cougars.

Boyd lead the Bears with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Gennifer Brandon added 13 points and 15 rebounds. In the process, Brandon broke Ashley Walker’s single-season rebounding record of 317, with 319 by the end of the night.

Sage Romberg was the high-scorer for WSU with 11 points, while April Cook put up 10.

Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer gave credit to the poise of her players in the win.

“Just chalk it up to a bad shooting game,” she said. “I can’t tell you if it was something in the waffles this morning or whatever it could be. But some days you have games like that, and thankfully we were able to overcome that with great rebounding. I thought excellent defense, kind of just not getting discouraged.”

Cal Coach Lindsay Gottlieb pointed to the team’s 58 percent second half shooting – compared to 40 percent in the first half – as a key to their win.

“I thought we responded really well coming out of the halftime. I asked them to get…a lot tougher on the defensive end and to be more patient at the same time on the offensive end,” she said. “I thought shooting 58 percent in the second half and getting some critical stops, they really did that.”

Stanford and Cal faced off just six days ago in a rematch of a game that the Cardinal won in overtime; last week Stanford routed the Bears 86-61. Both Boyd and Brandon expressed confidence that Cal would bring their best game to the championship. Boyd said it was a matter of following the game plan of the coaches.

“It’s focusing in and….following and trusting in their game plan – just playing hard,” she said. “It’s the championship, and I believe that we’re going to bring it and Stanford’s going to bring it.”

The championship game begins at 11:30 a.m. PST and will be televised on FSN.

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