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Bears Upset No. 8 Stanford, 81-80, on Buzzer-Beater by Asha Thomas

January 31, 2019

All season long, the California Golden Bears heard questions about their inability to finish games, as they suffered one close loss after another. 

This time, against rival No. 8 Stanford, it looked like Cal was about to lose another heartbreaker.

Down by one with seven seconds left and their best player on the bench, the Bears found a way, as senior Asha Thomas just beat the buzzer with a driving lay-up and Cal pulled out the 81-80 upset over the Cardinal. It was Thomas’ lone basket of the game.

“Days like today are the ones you never forget,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “Any win against Stanford feels extra special because of how good they are, how well-prepared they are, everything. So it makes everything more meaningful.”

In a season full of superlative performances, Kristine Anigwe notched perhaps her best yet, scoring 25 and pulling down 24 rebounds before fouling out.

“I’ve coached a lot of games against Stanford, and they’re the best at taking away a team’s strength that I’ve ever seen,” said Gottlieb.  “So the fact that Kristine has 25 and 24 against Stanford... I’d like to know the last time anyone had 20 and 20 against them. But the fact that she fouled out, and [Asha Thomas] hadn’t hit a shot all game, yet I felt so confident in putting the ball in her hands and saying, ‘Make a play!’ I couldn’t script it better.”

“I get my fifth foul, but I know something big is going to happen,” said Anigwe. “This whole game, we had something to us that was different.”

In an exciting game where neither team led by more than six points, the Bears came through by mixing the reliable ingredients (Anigwe’s scoring and rebounds) with the unexpected--the Bears hit twelve threes while holding Stanford to five of 23 beyond the arc; the five makes tie for Stanford’s lowest this season.

“It was the game of the night,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “It came down to one play. One of the big things is we did not knock down threes, and we gave up too many threes. That was disappointing.”

In addition to Anigwe and her all-game dominance, other Bears took turns keeping Cal in the game. Kianna Smith had 10 points (of her 16 total) in the first period; Recee Caldwell had all of her 11 in the second; and Jaelyn Brown had nine in the third (and 18 overall). The remaining starter--Asha Thomas--only managed four total points, but they were Cal’s final points of the game. And of course, she hit the game-winner.

Stanford was led by DiJonai Carrington’s 23 points and 12 rebounds. Leading scorer Alanna Smith hit her average with 21 points, but the Bears held her to nine of 22 from the field and only two of nine from three; Smith came into the game hitting 48% from distance.

With the win, Cal is now 14-6 (5-4 Pac-12); Stanford lost its second in a row and falls to 17-3 (7-2).



Kristine Anigwe started the game set up from the high post. She scored Cal’s first two baskets--on an elbow jumper and on a putback of her own missed drive. Anigwe had five rebounds within the first five minutes of the game.

Stanford responded with two drives of their own, finding open lanes in the Cal defense, with Alanna Smith and DiJonai Carrington hitting in the paint.

“We gave up too many basket cuts in the first half,” said Gottlieb.

Kianna Smith continued her recent hot shooting, providing Cal with good balance and floor spacing. She knocked down her first three shots, including a three that gave Cal the 13-9 lead with halfway through the first period.

McKenzie Forbes missed a three but followed her own miss for a second-chance bucket. 

A breakaway layup by Jaelyn Brown ignited the crowd, but Stanford kept pace by beating the aggressive Bear defense with cuts to the basket.

Kianna Smith’s second three kept Cal ahead, and behind her 10 points, the Bears closed the first period up 22-20.

Stanford took the lead two minutes into the second period, behind layups from Kiana Williams and Smith. 

Forced to generate offense in the half-court, the Bears struggled to find passing lanes. So Recee Caldwell stretched the court, stepping back behind the arc to hit consecutive threes and pushing Cal back ahead, 28-27.

Despite not getting touches on offense, Anigwe continued to work hard on the glass. Her putback--off her 13th rebound of the half--earned the Cal star her 20th double-double of the season.

“Throughout the game, I was trying to stay composed, because Stanford really makes you feel uncomfortable,” said Anigwe. “That’s their goal.” Anigwe was held to only two points in the second period.

Caldwell hit another three and a baseline jumper to extend her offensive flurry. The grad transfer contributed 11 points in the second period as Cal built a five point lead.

Stanford countered with their own hot hand, as Carrington scored six consecutive for the Cardinal to keep pace. A three-point play by Smith and a jumper by Lacie Hull closed the period, knotting up the game at 38.

Carrington led all players with 15 in the first 20 minutes.

The third period opened with a shootout. Jaelyn Brown knocked down consecutive threes from the top of the arc. Stanford matched her with three jumpers of their own. Alanna Smith then outraced the field for a breakaway, giving Stanford the 46-44 lead.

Maya Dodson scored twice down low. The sophomore, who is just returning to the lineup from an injury, then earned a trip to the line. Dodson split her free-throws, giving Stanford its largest lead of the game, 51-46, halfway through the third.

Anigwe returned the favor on the other end, forcing Dodson to the bench with her third foul. Anigwe hit both free-throws. She then swatted Alanna Smith.

“She’s a terrific player; she can get you inside or outside,” said Gottlieb of Smith. “But I think we made her uncomfortable. We had multiple people on her at times, but she never got the easy one where someone forgot that she can shoot. When someone is so good, you can’t give them the easy ones.”

The two teams continued to trade big plays and scored in bunches. Anigwe grabbed another offensive rebound and knocked down the putback. Brown took a charge and sent Carrington to the bench with three fouls; on the other end, Brown’s three point play edged Cal ahead 53-51. Then Kianna Smith and Alyssa Jerome traded threes. And Lacie Hull converted a Bear turnover into a three-point play for Stanford.

Anigwe then scored five consecutive points, on a three-point play and two free throws, and Cal was again ahead, 61-59.

Dodson’s putback again tied the game, and Asha Thomas’s three at the buzzer was waved off, and the third period ended at 61-all.

Alanna Smith hit a three and Stanford grabbed the lead, 65-63, to open the fourth.

Jaelyn Brown hit a three bring Cal back up. On the play, Stanford was called for a foul away from the ball, and Cal was awarded the possession. The Bears made it count, finding Brown for another three, and the Bears notched six points on that one trip and led 69-65, with 7:20 to play.

“Jaelyn Brown stepping out and making threes,” said Gottlieb, highlighting a key moment in the game. “People are going to sag off our fours; she knocked them down.”

“We have to play better defense,” said VanDerveer. “We have to get out on them. We have to be more aggressive defensively.”

Fouls began to pile up for Cal, as the Bears got whistled fighting for rebounds. The Cardinal took advantage from the free-throw line, hitting four consecutive free throws to tie the game at 69, with six minutes left.

Anigwe passed out of a double team, finding an open Smith in the corner, and the sophomore knocked down the three.

Stanford continued to live on the offensive glass, and Alanna Smith hit a second-chance basket.

Anigwe split free-throws. Cal up 73-71.

The Bears missed a three, but Anigwe grabbed her 23rd rebound to give Cal another chance. After the Bears re-set, Brown found Anigwe inside. The center converted a three-point play, and Cal had the 76-71 lead, with 2:13 to play.

After a Cal time-out, the Bears came out in an aggressive man defense, flustering the Cardinal, who were forced into a time-out of their own.

But as with so many Bear opponents, when they needed a basket, Stanford put the ball in the hands of their scoring guard and sent her toward the hoop. Carrington bulled her way to the basket, getting herself to the line. On the play, Anigwe picked up her fourth foul. Carrington missed her second, but Stanford grabbed the rebound, and the Cardinal again got to the line. Memories of the UCLA loss, where Cal led but gave up a rebound on a missed free-throw, bubbled forth.

Dodson hit one, and Stanford was within a posession, 76-73.

Stanford fouled twice on the other end, sending Brown to the line. Brown split her free-throws.

But Carrington attacked again, and this time she converted a three-point play, fouling out Kianna Smith in the process. Stanford was within one, 77-76, with a minute left.

The Bears turned it over on a held ball, and Stanford took possession with 43 seconds left. Smith took it right at Anigwe, who had four fouls, and she scored with her left hand, and Stanford was up, 78-77.

Cal called time with 30.7 seconds to play.

The Bears found Forbes for a three, but her shot was short. Asha Thomas skittered along the baseline, scooping up the ball. She was fouled, and hit both free-throws for her first points of the game.  Cal was up 79-78, with 9.5 seconds to go. 

“There are other things in basketball besides scoring,” said Thomas. “Whether it’s rebounds, assists, or making just the right play for somebody else. Whatever it is, I’m going to play the game of basketball. If my shot is not falling down, there are other things to do.”

Stanford called time and advanced the ball. Carrington curled around and was fouled by Anigwe--her fifth. Carrington hit both, and Cal was down 80-79, with 7.2 seconds to go.

With two starters out, the Bears put the ball in the hands of Thomas. The senior drove down the lane and her lefty scoop bounced twice on the rim before dropping as the buzzer sounded.

“I saw the lane open on the left side,” said Thomas. “Took my little self into that lane, and got where I needed to go.”

Thomas said she wasn’t surprised that Gottlieb trusted her to make a play. “You like that as a player: you like the trust, you like the confidence. And I like big moment. The ball is in my hands, and I make the play--whether for myself or for others. Yeah, I want the ball in my hands.”

“She had four points tonight; last game against Stanford, she had twenty-something,” said Anigwe of Thomas. “Then she comes and makes this unreal play, and we beat the number eight team in the nation.”

After so many close losses, Gottlieb was glad to see her team put together a good game against a top opponent and pull it out at the end.

The Bears came into the game with the understanding the next four games against top 10 teams (Stanford, @Stanford, No. 4 Oregon, No. 9 Oregon State) will have a huge impact in determining their postseason fate. That they responded in the first game gives Gottlieb and her team a huge boost.

“It is huge. I do think this is who we are: the inside dominance and 12 made threes. That’s who we are and can be. But this means a lot for our confidence. It means a lot for our resume.”

The Bears now look forward to buidling on the big win.

“This gives us the chance to get the sweep [against Stanford],” said Gottlieb. “We’re going to head down to the Farm with an unbelievable opportunity to do something great.”


Cal  @ Stanford is this Saturday, February 2nd, at 4pm.




  • Anigwe now has 2300 career points, just behind Colleen Galloway, who holds the Cal record with 2320 points. Anigwe moved into seventh in Pac-12 history, passing UW’s Jazmine Davis (2277).
  • Anigwe is also second in the Cal record books for rebounds, with 1179. Gennifer Brandon is #1 with 1219. 
  • Anigwe’s streak of 21 consecutive doubles (spanning from last season) ties her for fifth all-time in women’s basketball (Division 1).
  • Jaelyn Brown’s 18 points is a season high. Her four threes are a career-high.
  • Kianna Smith’s four threes matched her career high.
  • 3117 attended the game.


Discussion from...

Bears Upset No. 8 Stanford, 81-80, on Buzzer-Beater by Asha Thomas

7,240 Views | 11 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by GATC
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Nicely done (as usual)

Query: Why did Carrington go at Anigwe so early in the clock? Stanford started the play with 9.5 and the foul was at 7.2. If Stanford had worked the clock down, they still could have gone for the drive for the basket and/or foul and then Cal would not have had the 7 seconds to run the winning play. I realize on the road you may want to take the first good shot - to give you time if you miss - and Carrington is one of Stanford's best players...but.... Did anyone ask VanDerveer about that?
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If she missed there was time for a rebound.
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wvitbear said:

If she missed there was time for a rebound.
This is correct. Here is something from Pete Newell:

Automatically hold for last shot with less than 30 seconds remaining in period when leading or trailing as follows:
10 Seconds
Players need to be in position for play
8 Seconds
Initiate play
3-5 Seconds
Take the shot & go to offensive boards for second effort.
0-2 Seconds
If opponent does rebound they will not have enough time to advance ball down court for shot

That said, it hard to make the perfect timing. Carrington saw an open lane on Cal's weak guard defense (which has been another discussion point all year), and initiated play when she could. It was not that far off the perfection that Newell stated.

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I'm just glad Carrington took the shot/got fouled when she did!
(Although, I would have been just as happy had KA made the defensive play without fouling and without the ball going to a different Stanford player for a second try)
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I think we should just have Kate announce all of our basketball games, maybe we'd have a chance on the men's side
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Anyone aware of an upcoming replay? My little girls wanted to watch, but family health matters dictated otherwise...

It's one Pac-12 Networks right now.
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Yes, I think the play was for Carrington, especially if she has favorable matchup. She did, so she went at first opportunity.

But I agree that leaving that much time was fortuitous for the Bears. It allowed Asha to do what she did. Part of the reason that play worked was that Cal had good spacing, and that Stanford had to honor multiple options (West's defender had to stay with her to prevent the dump off and thus was just late helping on Asha, for example). But the additional time allowed for Cal to get the defense on the move, which then favors the offense.
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must see post game interview ... listen to KA's passionate words for her teammate

also, a great call by KALX announcers

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youngivee giving props to his sis

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Didn't realize it is a Thursday game. I came to the forum and it was like a dream. Really needed this one to build confidence.

Great to read about it and see a few clips. Our out of bound play is pretty good. Screen by Brown to free up Thomas to get the pass and a screen by Forbes to free her up for the drive (or open shot).
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