BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California guard Asha Thomas had two options as she glanced at the game clock with the final seconds ticking down — drive to the basket or pass across the court.
An opening in Stanford’s defense made the choice an easy one and gave the Bears the signature win they’ve been looking for this season.
Thomas converted a left-handed layup at the buzzer, lifting California to a dramatic 81-80 win over No. 8 Stanford on Thursday night.
“Days like today are the ones you just never forget,” Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Any win against Stanford feels extra special because of how darn good they are, how well prepared they are. It means a lot for our confidence and I think it means a lot for our resume.”
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Thomas, who also hit two free throws with 9.5 seconds left, missed her first six shot attempts before driving in for the game-winner to help the Bears (14-6, 5-4 Pac-12) win their fourth in five games.
It came not long after Kristine Anigwe fouled out, leaving the Bears without their leading scorer and rebounder.
“The play was basically a high ball screen and then on the other side it was a pin down for somebody else coming,” said Thomas, a 5-foot-4 senior. “I saw the lane open on that left side, took my little self to that lane and got where I needed to go.”
Cal had to hold off celebrating as the play was reviewed. When officials confirmed Thomas’ score, the Haas Pavilion crowd burst into loud cheers.
“Stanford really makes you feel uncomfortable. For us, we thrive when we’re uncomfortable,” Anigwe said. “I got my fifth foul and I knew something big was going to happen.”
Anigwe had 25 points and 24 rebounds for Cal. Jaelyn Brown scored 18 points and Kianna Smith added 16.
DiJonai Carrington had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Stanford (17-3, 7-2). Alanna Smith scored 21.
The teams play again on Saturday at Stanford.
“It came down to one play,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We didn’t get a stop when we needed to down the stretch.”
The Bears were in control most of the game but fell behind 78-77 when Alanna Smith went around Anigwe for a layup with 30.7 seconds remaining.
After Thomas put Cal back in front with her first points of the game on the two free throws with 9.5 seconds to go, Carrington made a pair of free throws to give Stanford an 80-79 lead.
Gottlieb called a timeout to advance the ball to midcourt, and Thomas dribbled briefly before driving to the basket.
It was a significant blow to Stanford, which lost to Utah 74-58 last Sunday. With the loss to Cal, the Cardinal dropped 1½ games behind Oregon in the Pac-12 standings.
“We’re disappointed and we’re hungry,” Carrington said.
Stanford: The Cardinal had won 19 of the last 22 in this series but couldn’t get the stops they needed down the stretch. Stanford wasn’t sharp and got out of sorts late in the second half when calls didn’t go its way. With a rematch against Cal in two days, VanDerveer’s team doesn’t have much time to lick its wounds.
California: The Bears got a big win. That it came against their Northern California rivals who were coming off a tough loss made it that much better. … Anigwe’s streak of double-doubles extends to last season and is the fifth-longest in women’s Division I history.
BEEN A WHILE
Stanford had not lost consecutive conference games since 2015.
Anigwe needs 21 points to become Cal’s career scoring leader and could get the milestone Saturday at Maples Pavilion.
“It’s tough. Anigwe’s a very aggressive player inside and you have to pick your poison,” VanDerveer said.
Stanford: Hosts rival California at Maples Pavilion on Saturday.
California: Plays at Stanford on Saturday.
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