No. 2 Stanford 86, California 61

Stanford is showing the country it has a lot more power than

just the talented sister tandem of Nnemkadi and Chiney

Ogwumike.

And what timing, in early March with the NCAA tournament right

around the corner and the selection committee watching.

Nneka Ogwumike had 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists,

Toni Kokenis scored 23 points, and the second-ranked Cardinal

capped their third straight unbeaten conference season with an

86-61 victory over rival California on Sunday night.

Chiney Ogwumike added 12 points and 12 rebounds as Stanford

(28-1, 18-0 Pac-12) won its 25th in a row overall and eighth

straight against the Golden Bears, who came within 74-71 in an

overtime loss at Maples Pavilion on Jan. 28 – the Cardinal’s

closest push in a win all season and lone OT game.

”I really feel people who watch us play would just say, `Hey,

they’re having a great year,”’ coach Tara VanDerveer said. ”Our

team knows we can play with anyone, we just want the chance.”

The Cardinal, who captured the inaugural Pac-12 regular-season

crown and the program’s 12th straight conference title, ran their

winning streak against conference opponents to 75 since losing

57-54 to Cal in Berkeley on Jan. 18, 2009.

Gennifer Brandon scored 11 points and Eliza Pierre had 10 to

lead cold-shooting Cal (22-8, 13-5), which couldn’t overcome a

19-point halftime deficit and had a four-game winning streak

snapped with just the team’s third loss in the last 16 games.

”I think we all wanted to win this game but this game doesn’t

hurt us,” Pierre said. ”They’re a great team. You have to respect

them. Are they 25 points better than us? I don’t think so.”

VanDerveer has called all season for more of her players to get

involved on both ends of the floor to take a load off the talented

Ogwumike sisters – and the Cardinal’s 26th-year coach received

several such performances in the regular-season finale.

Kokenis shot 9 for 14 with three 3s and also had six rebounds

and four assists. Joslyn Tinkle scored 16 points with two 3s and

freshman Bonnie Samuelson hit three first-half 3-pointers on the

way to nine points. Stanford went 8 for 20 from long range, with

former Stanford stars Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen cheering the

Cardinal among the crowd of 7,854 at Haas Pavilion. Stanford hasn’t

lost to a conference opponent since Cal pulled off that win here in

2009.

Stanford was too much for Cal defensively. Layshia Clarendon

averaged 19.8 points over her previous four games yet attempted

only eight shots Sunday after scoring 17 points in the first

meeting with Stanford.

The Cardinal haven’t lost since a 68-58 defeat at Connecticut on

Nov. 21 and are two victories from matching the longest winning

streak in program history. Stanford had 27-game winning streaks in

back-to-back seasons: 2009-10 and 2010-11.

”It means a lot to win the Pac-12 and be the first one to win

the Pac-12, and to go undefeated. We’re not satisfied,” Nneka

Ogwumike said. ”Playing against Cal is always emotional. At this

point in time people really need to buy into having fun.”

Bears freshman Brittany Boyd scored a career-best 19 points

against Stanford the first time out – and it looked like she was

headed for another big day early. Boyd had a steal, four rebounds

and four points in the opening four minutes, but wound up 1 for 9

in the first half and 3 of 15 overall for eight points after an

8-for-19 performance the last time out against Stanford.

Nneka Ogwumike swatted a shot by Boyd beyond the Stanford bench

with 5:21 left in the first half.

Cal shot 1 for 10 from 3-point range, was even on the boards at

41-41 and converted only 10 of 21 free throws to Stanford’s 24 for

27 from the line.

Stanford used a 10-0 run late in the first half and held Cal

scoreless for 6:15 during that span on the way to a 43-24 lead at

the break. The Cardinal finished 18-0 in conference play for the

third straight season.

The Pac-12 tournament begins Wednesday at Staples Center in Los

Angeles, but Stanford and Cal are the top two seeds and open

Thursday. Cal – a likely NCAA tournament team under first-year

coach Lindsay Gottlieb – earned the second seed after their fifth

20-win season in six years. The Bears have played a tough schedule

and are likely headed for their first NCAA berth since 2009.

”I don’t think there’s even a question. Would I always feel

better to get a couple more wins in the tournament? Absolutely,”

Gottlieb said. ”Hopefully that’s not part of the conversation at

this point.”

The Cardinal began the game 1 for 8 but quickly got in synch

from long range. Samuelson knocked down two 3-pointers and Kokenis

another as Stanford went ahead 21-11 at the 11:45 mark of the first

half, leading to a Cal timeout.

”We got down 4-0 and then we just took off,” VanDerveer

said.

Stanford, which has reached the last four Final Fours but come

home empty since the program’s last NCAA title in 1992, has a

winning streak of 20 or more games for the fifth straight season.

The Cardinal would like to send senior Nneka Ogwumike out with

another special March run.

”It’s sort of the time you either get with it or you give up,”

Chiney Ogwumike said. ”We really have a challenge ahead of us in

the Pac-12 tournament.”

The Cardinal are 11-1 on Cal’s home court since 2000-01.