Stanford's outlook changed dramatically on Sunday.
The No. 5-ranked Cardinal women seemed to be sitting pretty after beating No. 7 Cal 62-53 on the Bears' home court on Tuesday. And if the Cardinal could handle the Bears by nine points in Berkeley, in what figured to be their toughest conference game of the season, you'd assume Stanford would be even more dominant against Cal at Maples Pavilion. The presumed win at home, where the Cardinal almost never lose, would put the Cardinal two games clear of Cal in the Pac-12 standings and put the Cardinal well on its way to a 13th straight regular-season conference title.
And things seemed to be headed in the expected direction when Stanford got off to a 10-2 lead over the Bears on Sunday. But then the unthinkable happened, and a series of streaks became big news.
Cal simply dominated Stanford from that point on, ending up with a 67-55 victory over the Cardinal. It ended the Cardinal's 81-game winning streak against conference foes, but, more surprisingly, it was the Cardinal second straight loss at home after winning the previous 82 games at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal home streak was stopped by UConn just two weeks earlier.
The Cardinal (14-2, 3-1) had not lost two in a row at home in 12 years, and both of these home losses were by double-digit margins. Stanford is now tied for third place in the conference with Cal, and the Cardinal's next two games are at home against the teams tied for first - No. 16 UCLA, which comes to Maples Pavilion on Friday, and USC, which plays at Stanford on Sunday. Stanford has not lost three consecutive home games since the 1986-87 season, which was Tara VanDerveer's second season as the Cardinal's head coach and the Cardinal finished 14-14 overall, including 8-10 in the conference.
It will be interesting to see where the two Bay Area rivals are ranked when the Associated Press top 25 is released on Monday.
It's hard to explain how Stanford lost so decisively on Sunday, considering Cal shot just 29.7 percent from the field. Cal's top two scorers - Brittany Boyd (19 points) and Layshia Clarendon (14) - combined to shoot just 8-for-30.
But, as they did on Tuesday, the Bears (13-2, 3-1) dominated the boards, hauling down 20 offensive rebounds. And this time the Cardinal committed 16 turnovers, to just six for the Bears.
Things were going along fine for the Cardinal when it took that 10-2 lead, but Cal outscored Stanford 24-9 over the next 10 minute to take control of the game. Stanford got to within eight points with 13:39 left in the game, but Cal led by a double-digit margin for the final 10:40.
Chiney Ogwumike had 18 points for Stanford, and Toni Kokenis added 14, but again outside shooting was a problem for the Cardinal. After going 0-for-8 on three-pointers on Tuesday, Stanford went 2-for-12 from long range on Sunday.
Mikaela Ruef fouled out after playing just eight minutes, and that hurt the Cardinal's interior defense. The Bears would up taking 31 foul shots to just 15 for the Cardinal.
It ended up as Stanford's first loss to a conference foe since a Jan. 18, 2009, loss to Cal.
The Bears and Stanford will not meet again until the Pac-12 tournament, so each must try to wade through the remaining 14 regular-season conference games without a loss to be assured of a share of the regular-season title.