STANFORD — Stanford has reigned for so long every other Pac-12 team only hopes to hang around each season. It had been almost four years since the Cardinal last lost against a conference opponent.
Lindsay Gottlieb mentioned that 81-game conference winning streak to her gritty California crew this week after Stanford beat the Golden Bears on Tuesday night. Five days later, it was Cal’s turn — this time on Stanford’s home floor.
Gennifer Brandon had 14 points and 12 rebounds and No. 7 Cal snapped fifth-ranked Stanford’s long conference winning streak with a commanding 67-55 victory Sunday in the second meeting between the Bay Area rivals in six days.
“We’re thrilled to have gotten this win,” Gottlieb said. “I think the way it feels for us, first and foremost, speaks to how good Stanford is and their consistency of excellence. Doing this for the couple years I’ve done it, you realize how hard it is to be good, day in and day out. They obviously set the standard for that.”
Gottlieb gathered her California players for a full-on movie outing — popcorn, candy, the works.
Well, sort of. The second-year Cal coach broke down film to the minute from her team’s nine-point home loss to Stanford earlier in the week, making sure the Bears were much better prepared for the second meeting.
They were motivated, all right, from the moment they stepped on the court at Maples Pavilion. From every crash to the offensive boards, to every loose ball and made 3-pointer.
“I want them to enjoy it. This team hasn’t kind of had that celebration moment,” Gottlieb said. “I think it does put us maybe in a different class where now we have beaten a team that’s ranked above us. That’s a big step. These players always knew that we could win and always play like we can win, but to actually do it, I hope gives us a boost of confidence that will be good for us going forward.”
Brittany Boyd added 19 points while Layshia Clarendon had 14 to help the Bears beat a top-5 opponent for the first time since a 66-52 victory against No. 2 Rutgers on Nov. 22, 2008.
Mikayla Lyles scored 11 of her career-best-matching 14 points over the final 6:04 of the first half as Cal (13-2, 3-1 Pac-12) took control on the way to snapping Stanford’s 10-game winning streak in the series and three-year run of dominance against the conference.
“I don’t know how many adjectives you can use. You could use all the ones in the book to describe this feeling,” Lyles said. “It wasn’t necessarily that it was breaking the 81-game win streak. It was that we did it as a team, we came in and we did it at Maples, we came off a loss and made it happen.”
The Bears earned just their fourth victory in the last 46 meetings with Stanford (14-2, 3-1) — even more special now that both are among the nation’s top-10.
They might just swap spots in the next poll now.
Chiney Ogwumike had 18 points and nine rebounds as Stanford dropped consecutive home games for the first time in 12 years.
Cal, whose only losses this season have come against Stanford and at No. 4 Duke, ended the Cardinal’s impressive conference winning streak that dated to a 57-54 Bears win at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley on Jan. 18, 2009.
Stanford had stopped Cal’s six-game winning streak with a 62-53 victory last Tuesday night.
Trailing 47-39 midway through the second half, Stanford squandered four chances to cut the lead to six. And Cal capitalized, getting a short jumper by Clarendon followed by a pair of free throws from Boyd at the 10:12 mark to make it 52-39. The Cardinal committed a shot-clock violation the next time down, their 14th turnover.
Stanford went 4:43 without scoring before Ogwumike’s layin at 9:00. Clarendon immediately answered for Cal on the other end.
The Pac-12 Conference championship will likely come down to these two, as everyone has expected for months.
Stanford, which has reached five straight Final Fours and is chasing a 13th straight regular-season conference crown — and 22nd overall — while opening Pac-12 play with five of eight games against teams ranked in The Associated Press poll.
Cal has never won or shared a conference title.
“We know it’s January,” Gottlieb said. “Maybe now a conference championship is in our control.”
Stanford struggled against Cal’s swarming, trapping man defense that forced 10 first-half turnovers.
The Bears also generated 14 offensive boards in the opening 20 minutes on the way to a 39-31 edge at the break despite shooting 33.3 percent to Stanford’s 44 percent.
“They are extremely aggressive. If there’s one thing that we’re not, we’re not aggressive,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We’re not aggressive enough offensively. We’re not aggressive enough defensively on the glass. They came in hungry. … We had no pace. We were slow.”
Typically, the two matchups are spread out by about a month — but television dictated this season’s schedule.
Stanford returned to Maples Pavilion for the first game on the home court since its 82-game home winning streak was snapped in a surprising 61-35 rout by Connecticut on Dec. 29.
The Cardinal lost back-to-back home games for the first time since Feb. 16 and March 3, 2001, against Cal and Southern California.
It doesn’t get any easier, with No. 14 UCLA coming to campus Friday night. Stanford hasn’t lost three in a row at home since early in the 1986-87 season, VanDerveer’s second year.
Stanford’s points were a record-low at home in a conference game. The previous was a 63-54 loss to No. Oregon on March 5, 1987. This also marked the Cardinal’s first double-digit defeat at home in Pac-12 or Pac-10 play since losing 72-57 to Cal on Feb. 4, 2007.
Stanford made just 8 of 29 field goals in the second half and went 2 for 12 from long range for a 35.2-percent performance overall.
After shooting a season-low 30.2 percent Tuesday night, Cal began the game by missing its first 10 field-goal tries before Clarendon’s steal and layin at the 13:48 mark of the first half.
But the Cardinal missed 12 of their first 14 shots of the second half.
“It’s hard any time you’re down trying to swing the momentum back your way,” Ogwumike said. “Streaks are great when you’re on the good side of it. Hopefully these two tough losses at Maples will motivate us.”