NCAA Tournament: Cal Beats Wichita State, 78-66


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By Viet Nguyen, Staff Writer
Posted Mar 20, 2015
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2015

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Mercedes Jefflo hits 2nd half 3 vs. Wichita St

Hey, these Bears play a little defense too.

Before the game, talk was all about Wichita State’s D, which is ranked fourth in the country in scoring defense (51ppg). But it was the Cal defense that set the tone early, and then when the Bear offense caught up, Cal pulled away at the end of both halves for a comfortable 78-66 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I thought we showed a ton of resolve, trying to find a way to be a little bit better at what we do than they are at what they do, because they are very good at what they do,” said Gottlieb. “I thought we battled, we made plays, the stat sheet looks like want it to look, a lot of different people scoring, and I thought it was just a really fun game, I’m happy to be one of 32 teams left standing. I’m really proud to coach this group, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play to get to a Sweet 16, how much fun is that?”

The Bears had fun up and down the line up. Reshanda Gray notched 22 points as the California Golden Bears put all starters in double-digits scoring. Mercedes Jefflo had 14 points, while Brittany Boyd scored 12. Gabby Green and Mikayla Cowling each scored 11, while Courtney Range had six points off the bench. Gray had nine rebounds and Green had eight as the Bears pounded the Shockers on the glass, 38-27.

“The big emphasis was definitely rebounds and boxing out,” said Green. “They do crash really hard so we worked hard and practiced and turned it out. We definitely had to box out.”

Wichita State guard Alex Harden matched Gray with 22 and nine, but the Shocker defense had no answer for the Bears, who scored from all over the court. Cal hit 52% of their shots.

“it was just hard to adjust, cause we were trying to take away their inside presence,

which is what they like to do, and take away 15 (Brittany Boyd),” said Harden. “I think we did a good job of that. And their role players were just knocking down shots today and that was the difference.”

“They shot the ball very well,” said Wichita State’s head coach Jody Adams. “I mean that’s not typical. So you know, again, you have to give them credit for those freshmen stepping up and knocking  in big shots. This is that time of the year, where if you’re a big time player, you make the big time shots. And they made big time shots.”

“I thought attacking pressure was going to be key,” said Gottlieb. “And you can’t know where that point of attack is going to be, and so we wanted to rely on what we think we’ve come to be, which is a team with five threats on the floor. I think we did a great job of being in attack mode. In general, our shooting (percentage) was so high because we got the ball where it needed to be and somebody made a play.”

“One thing that we did was that we executed well,” said Boyd. “We took our time. I think that this is a surprise to you all, but it’s something that we knew that we had within us and we knew what we were capable of, and like I said, it’s finally showing. It’s a good feeling to have. I think we had really good ball movement, we found the open players, we played together, and we played team basketball.”

The Bears started the game with harassing defense themselves, causing a 10-sec and an over-and-back. However, Cal was sloppy on offense and could not take advantage.

Reshanda Gray seemed over-amped, missing strong inside. On the next trip down, she grabbed two offensive rebounds and her stick-back gave Cal the 3-2 lead.

Harden served notice that she would be difficult to handle, attacking the basket and scoring Wichita State’s first four points.

A Boyd three stretched the lead to 8-4 but Cal’s consecutive turnovers allowed Wichita State to tie the game at 8.

Courtney Range came off the bench and scored inside at the end of the shot clock to break the tie.  Boyd finally found Gray down low to edge Cal ahead 12-8. But Boyd picked up her second foul at the 11:23 mark and went to the bench.

Harden tied up the game at 12 with her 8th point. 

Consecutive scores by Gray in the paint edged Cal ahead 16-14, a lead Cal would never relinquish.

“21’s (Reshanda Gray) the one that got us in trouble,” said Adams. “We just don’t have the size to go with that, so we tried fronting her, we tried playing behind, we tried sandwiching her. I mean, she got three different looks and three different defensive packages. She’s a pro. She’s just tough to handle. She caught the ball with three people around her; she finished in the paint with hree people around her. So you have to give that young lady credit for her poise and the positions she was placed in.”

“I felt like this whole year I’ve seen all types of different defenses and the one thing I try to better myself on is when I do have the ball, I try to play smart and be aware of my surroundings,” said Gray. “And just to be aggressive because I know that people are coming for me so I just try to get into positions where I am able to score and if I’m not able to score I look for my other teammates.”

Boyd came back to the game with 8:12 before the break.

Gray scored again inside, and Mercedes Jefflo’s steal and lay-up kept Cal ahead 21-16.

Alex Harden banked in a three with the clock winding down, and another three by Alie Decker kept the game at 26-24 at the five minute mark.

Cal closed the half on an 11-3 run, starting with Courtney Range stealing the ball and getting rewarded on the other end, hitting down low.

After a time-out, Cal’s frosh took over. Mikayla Cowling hit in the lane, and Gabby Green hit a three and a jumper.  Range’s putback gave Cal its first double-digit lead 37-26, with 1:29 before halftime.

“I thought Gabby (Green) had a fantastic game,” said Gottlieb. “Mikayla (Cowling) made shots, Courtney (Range), Mercedes (Jefflo)… You look at when teams try to

pressure us or put a focus on Brittany (Boyd) and Reshanda (Gray) and we get contributions from everywhere, that’s what makes us really good. The young ones were ready to do that tonight, it’s different from thinking they’ll be ready and seeing it happen, so that was really rewarding to see so many players make plays and they never look rattled at all.”

““I thought the 1-3-1, that length, made us hesitant of where to place the ball,” said Adams. “We knew exactly where we wanted to place it, but it was really hard against their length.”

A free-throw by Decker closed the half with Cal up 37-27. For the half, Cal shot 52% from the field. Gray led the way with 10, and Jefflo had nine, while Harden had 11 for the Shockers.

Wichita started the second half finding success in the paint, with jumpers by Kelsey Jaocobs and Michaela Dapprich. Dapprich hit a three to pull the Shockers within 42-34 with 17 minutes to go.

Cowling scored twice, and Gray hit for five more points to keep Cal ahead. But with 15:16 to go, Boyd picked up her third foul trying to draw a charge. Gray also picked up two fouls in quick succession, and the Shockers took advantage, hitting four free-throws to draw within 47-38 with 14:02 to go.

More Cal fouls and turnovers, and another three by Dapprich, and Wichita had a 9-0 run, trailing 47-43, with 12:20 to go, and Gottlieb called a time-out.

As they have done time and again this season, Cal regrouped, coming out with renewed energy of defense and better execution on offense.

Boyd hit two free-throws, and Cowling found Gray inside to stabilize the Bears, but Wichita State was now full of confidence. Two Decker free-throws and a score by Hayden kept the margin at five, 52-47, with 10 minutes to play.

Cowling hit two free-throws, and Jefflo hit her third three to give Cal back the 10-point lead, 59-47.

“I told my girls that that’s their run,” said Gottlieb. “It’s up to us, we have to stop it, and I loved the look I got in the huddle. I thought the players were locked in, and then we made two quick baskets, and we were back up by eight or 10 points, which was huge. Those are the things we think we’ve learned this year, when you have nine losses or whatever and your record isn’t perfect, you hope at this time of year that those losses are what are going to make you better. We’ve had teams that’ll go on runs and we’ve responded really well to that.

“There have been time outs over the course of a long season where I question if they are with me or if they’re down or if they’re mad or worried about the last play and then there’s the look when they are looked at and dialed in and I don’t know exactly what is going to happen next when we get out on the court, but as a coach you feel good about the pulse of your team when they’re with you. They just have a swagger about them that shows me that they have this, and I think that’s what I’ve seen over

the course of the last few games that is significant and important and meaningful. For a team to be successful, for a team to have that cohesion.”

Boyd found a lane for a score, and Jefflo hit two free throws for a 9-0 run and a 61-47 Cal lead with 7:47 to play.

Harden hit a lay-up and two free-throws to help Wichita State stay within range.

Cal continued push, as Boyd hit two free-throws, a putback, and then found Green for a three, and Cal had repelled the Shockers.

Reshanda Gray put an exclamation point on the game with a three-point play, and Cal’s lead hit the 20-point mark (78-58) when Penina Davidson’s touch pass found KC Waters for a lay-up, with 1:17 to go.

Wichita State’s season ends at 29-5, while the Bears (24-9) move on to the second round to face the Texas Longhorns, who barely survived against Western Kentucky, 66-64. Tip off is 6pm on Sunday.

To view postgame celebration and interviews, use the embedded viewers below: 


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