February 23, 2014

Cardinal wins battle against Bruins

The Cardinal Road Warriers had to fight hard to win this battle with the Bruins, which they did 65-56.

With the victory, they clinched the Pac-12 title and the #1 seed in the tournament.

The Bruins came out roaring, took the lead and held on to it for most of the first half.

Tough Bruin defense and an unfriendly basket held Chiney to three points for 17 minutes. With three minutes left to play in the first half, she subbed out. I don't know who said what to her, but she subbed back in 44 seconds later and took the game in hand with two steals, two layups, and two free throws that gave the Cardinal a four-point lead at the end of the half.

That wasn't the end of the game, by a long shot. The Cardinal never relinquished that lead, but couldn't extend it to more than twelve points. The short-handed Bruins were in foul trouble and visibly tired as the game proceeded, but they kept up the battle right to the final buzzer.

Perhaps because of the Cardinal's slow start against the Trojans on Friday, Tara shuffled the lineup and Bonnie, Briana and Bird joined Chiney and Amber as the starting five.

Briana earned her spot as she scored the Cardinal's first five points with a 3-pointer (after a steal by Bird) and a layup. But she subsequently committed two fouls and turned the ball over twice and played for only six minutes.

Lili got only eight minutes at the point. She played with her usual speed and intensity, but her ankle is probably not yet fully healed. Alex played for seven minutes, did a fine job of harassing Thea Lemburger and scored the Cardinal's final point with a free throw.

Amber led the offense the rest of the time and played for all but three minutes. She attacked the Bruin defense repeatedly, stole the ball and took it to the basket on fast breaks twice, and scored a total of 13 points.

Although she didn't start, Mikaela joined the action soon after and played her usual strong defense for 31 minutes. It seemed like Mikaela was the one who burst out with the ball in her hands whenever there was a battle for the ball under the Cardinal basket. She grabbed 11 rebounds, scored seven points, dished three assists and had one block and one steal — all that with only three fouls, all in the last 15 minutes of the game.

The Bruins used an extended zone defense that pretty well shut down the Cardinal's perimeter offense. The Cardinal didn't keep launching futile long shots, as they did in the game against Washington. They attempted just nine 3-pointers. Bonnie was the only one besides Briana who found any success beyond the arc — she made one of four attempts.

And, yes, Chiney did solve the Bruin defense and find her shot in the second half. She finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds for her 20th double-double of the season, blocked five shots and stole the ball four times.

In other Pac-12 action today, Cal, Arizona State and Oregon State all won. So Cal is still in second place. ASU and OSU are still tied for third, one game back. Washington, USC and Washington state are in a tie two games behind them and have little chance of earning the coveted first-round bye in the tournament.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

Stanford-UCLA postgame notes from Stanford Athletics,

A postgame interview of Chiney on team depth from Pac-12 Networks,

A gallery of photos by Dave Cortesi,

And photos by H. W. Chiu (Associated Press):

Chiney drives past Luiana Livulo
Chiney steals and heads for the basket
Taylor lays it up between Atonye and Thea
Taylor lays up another one

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