Cal, Stanford face off in Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament finals
SEATTLE – After a successful regular season in which both programs fell frustratingly short of their high standards, the Cal and Stanford women's basketball teams can reclaim a little supremacy with a win in the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament finals Sunday at 6 p.m. at KeyArena on ESPN.
Cal finished the conference season fourth when it felt it could have won the whole thing behind three-time All-Pac-12 guard Brittany Boyd and Pac-12 Player of the Year Reshanda Grey.
"We're disappointed that we didn't win the regular season championship," said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb after Saturday night's 68-55 win over Colorado in the semifinals. "It wasn't our time yet. We weren't ready yet. We didn't come out of the gates as the team we are now. And that's okay. Sometimes the growth is as significant as anything else. We want to win a Pac-12 Championship."
Cal went 1-1 against Stanford during the regular season, with each team winning on the road. The Golden Bears have struggled historically against their Bay Area rivals in the conference tournament, though, going 0-6 against the Cardinal. Two of those losses came in the tournament's title game (2008, 2012).
Making matters more intriguing: The Golden Bears have never won a Pac-10/12 Tournament championship. And a win for Gottlieb's squad or third-seed Stanford on Sunday would improve their chances of being one of the 16 teams chosen to host an NCAA women's tournament sub-regional on their respective campuses.
"I think these wins in the tournament would obviously give us a boost with that, but that's beyond our control," Gottlieb said Saturday. "We're trying to be the best team for 40 minutes (Sunday)."
Fourth-seed Cal certainly was the best team when it got here with comfortable wins over Washington in the quarterfinals and Colorado the following night. Stanford, meanwhile, prevailed in a pair of wins in which the opposing team missed a three-pointer in the final seconds that would have forced overtime. The first came Friday in a win over UCLA before Saturday's thrilling win over Arizona State, seeded second. The Cardinal held the Sun Devils to a season-low 31.6 percent shooting and buried eight three-pointers, the most allowed by ASU in a game this season. Stanford senior forward Taylor Greenfield came in off the bench to score a season-high 17 points, forward Kaylee Johnson had a huge block with under a minute remaining, giving her a season-high five for the game, and guard Bonnie Samuelson knocked in two threes to tie former Washington guard Kristi Kingma for 10th all-time on the Pac-12 career list, with 225 each.
Saturday marked the first time in the past 39 tournament games that Stanford wore its cardinal-red uniforms as the lower seed. Coach Tara VanDerveer has said multiple times this week she cherishes the role as an underdog. It's a nice thought. And her players have seemingly embraced the role, especially consistent All-Pac-12 senior guard Amber Orrange, who had 18 points Saturday.
But the Cardinal knows this spot well, having played in 12 of the previous 13 title games. Stanford won it from 2003-05 and 2007-13 before USC surprised the conference with four wins in four days to win the tourney title last season.
The Cardinal is done playing the underdog card.
"There is no underdog," VanDerveer said of the finals. "You're playing for a championship."