No one will hang this one up in the Louvre, but then again, no one said every game had to be a masterpiece.
Sloppy more often than not, business-like at other times, the Stanford women's basketball team fought bravely to keep its hopes of an eighth straight Pac-10 title alive, beating host California, 60-58, on Saturday afternoon.
Every player on the court took turns making bad decisions right along with good decisions. The seventh-ranked Cardinal (14-2, 25-3) never gave into its frustrations though, moving forward.
What could be more frustrating than watching three different players miss the front end of a one-and-one in the final 37 seconds? Or watching the opponents consistently grab offensive rebounds?
All-American Candice Wiggins missed 14 of her first 16 shots before stealing the ball from Devanei Hampton and scoring on a layup that gave the Cardinal the lead for good at 58-56 with 2:47 to go. Wiggins then hit a short jumper a minute later to boost Stanford's lead and the Cardinal hung on through all sorts of twists and turns.
"I think the game was all that it was billed to be," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "To me it was like a heavyweight fight. Sometimes it wasn't really pretty but it was very competitively played."
Wiggins went over 32 minutes between baskets, during which time JJ Hones stepped up, Kayla Pedersen made big plays, and finally, Jayne Appel asserted herself into the competition and carried the team for much of the second half.
"At halftime Jayne came out of hibernation and went to work," VanDerveer said. "She really took over the game for us. I'm really proud of how well she played. That was our focus, get Jayne the ball. She delivered. She got an earful at halftime, took it in and stepped it up. I thought that was the whole difference in the second half."
Appel and Wiggins each played the majority of the final 5:47 with four fouls. Those precious minutes Morgan Clyburn and Jeanette Pohlen spent on the court proved to make a difference. Even without its two stars the Cardinal never allowed California (14-2, 23-4) to take the ball and run away. Wiggins actually took a seat when she picked up her fourth with 11:16 to play. By the time she returned, Appel her her fourth PF.
"I have so much confidence in my teammates. They showed that even if I was struggling they were all there to pick me up," Wiggins said. "Obviously I was struggling and it was hard and it was frustrating. But this team stays together and when someone is down the other four or other 10 people are picking up that person."
Hones and Appel led Stanford, each with 16 points. They combined to shot 61 percent from the field (11-for-18), an astonishing figure given that the rest of the team shot less than 23 percent.
This was a game where a defensive stop by Roz Gold-Onwude was just as important as Hones hitting one of her four 3-pointers. It was a game where the small numbers counted as in Hones' five rebounds and four assists.
Wiggins, who scored 13 points, only committed one turnover and made five steals. Pedersen had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and the comic relief arrived when Appel, who also had 10 boards, faked a pass just inside the paint and then drove past the Cal defenders who bit on the sleight of hand for an easy basket.
This is supposed to be fun, after all.
"Hopefully that was for the fans because we don't want to go through that again," Pedersen said. "In the first half our defense was terrible. In the second half it was better and we were able to get the ball into Jayne more. She killed them in the second half."
Stanford has two conference games left, playing at Washington on Friday and at Washington State on Sunday. Friday's game will be just the second time ever the Cardinal play on Feb. 29, and the first time since 1992.
"This was a great win to get back on top but now we're looking at Washington," Pedersen said.