The California Golden Bears, coming off a tough road trip, bounced back against the Oregon Ducks, 65-54. Cal ran out to a 23-8 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.
“I asked our players to use their youthful energy, which is
a strength of ours, but couple that with some veteran poise, that maybe we
haven’t had all the time,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “They did that
and went out in the first quarter and just jumping on them with our athleticism
and the way we like to play, and then just holding them off the rest of the
The Bears had four players in double figures: Kristine
Anigwe (18 points), Courtney Range (13), Mikayla Cowling (12 ), and Asha Thomas
Oregon was lead by Lexi Petersen’s 20 points, and freshman
Maite Cazorla had 14. Jacinta Vandenberg had a game-high 10 rebounds as Oregon
edged Cal 39-34 on the glass.
With the win, Cal moves to 13-15 (4-13 Pac-12); Oregon is
now 20-8 (9-8).
Asha Thomas knocked down a three to open the scoring, and
Cal looked to share the ball and spread scoring. Four different Bears scored, as Cal got out
to a 13-4 lead.
Playing without star Jillian Alleyne (ACL), the Ducks were
missing a huge piece of their speed and athleticism, and Cal took advantage. The
Bears committed to speeding up the game, swarming on defense and running on
offense. Cal crashed the boards and then looked for the outlet pass. Mikayla
Cowling was the beneficiary early, twice scoring on the fastbreak. Her second
score was a three-point play opportunity, and Cowling converted to extend Cal’s
lead into double digits.
“It’s hard to go into the locker room, where you game-plan
for one kid all week, and look at your players and say, ‘OK, scrap that idea;
we’ll do something else,’” said Gottlieb. “Our players were gamers with that,
and they came out with great energy.”
Gabby Green stole the ball and passed ahead to Thomas, who
returned to ball to Green on a perfect two-on-one break, and Green converted.
Thomas then knocked down a jumper, with the shot clock about to buzz.
“They were just running, and I got them the ball,” said
Thomas. “Whether it’s simple or flashy, as long as I get it to them and they
put it in the basket, it’s fine with me.”
The Bears continued to show off their interchangeable pieces
as Penina Davidson came off the bench to hit a three, closing the first period,
with Cal ahead 23-8.
Oregon played better transition defense to open the second
period, and the Duck zone slowed down Cal’s offense. But the Ducks could not
cut into Cal’s advantage, as the Bears continued to play solid switching and
After a layup by Liz Brenner made the score 31-19 with 1:50
to go, Cal scored two more hyperdrive baskets courtesy of Green and Cowling to
go into the half with the 35-19 advantage.
In the first 20 minutes, Cal scored 12 points on the fastbreak, while Oregon
had none. Cal forced 13 turnovers and held the Ducks to 30% (8 of 27) of their
field goal attempts.
Oregon scored three baskets inside to open the third period,
but Cal countered with some easy scores of their own. Anigwe hit inside, Thomas
hit an open three, and Range scored on two consecutive possessions, the second
basket created by another Cal steal. Another early offense score by Anigwe gave
Cal the 22 point lead, 47-25, with 5:56 left in the third.
After a time-out, Maite Cazorla and Lexie Petersen hit
consecutive threes for Oregon, cutting the lead to 43-25.
Davidson hit an elbow jumper and a putback layup to help Cal
A late basket by Brenner closed the period, with Cal ahead
The Bears continued to look for Anigwe inside, but with the
freshman bottled up, Cal’s offense stalled into missed shots and turnovers.
Fortunately for Cal, the Ducks were equally ineffective on offense, and both
teams were scoreless for the first three minutes.
Cazorla hit a three to end the drought, and when another
three by Kat Cooper closed the game to 56-45, Gottlieb was forced to call a
Cal committed a shot clock violation, and all of a sudden,
Oregon had all the momentum. Lexie Petersen hit a nifty up and under, and
Oregon was back within single digit, 56-47, with five minutes to play.
Anigwe and Range scored inside to stem the tide, and after
the Ducks missed three shots in a single trip, Range found Cowling ahead for
another score, stretching Cal’s lead back to 62-48 with 2:11 to go.
Two Petersen baskets kept the Ducks’ hopes alive, especially
as Cal continued to struggle from the free-throw line.
After Green missed two free-throws, Petersen put her head
down and earned a trip to the line of her own. With 34.3 seconds to go, her free-throw
made it 63-53.
Anigwe split her free-throws, and the Ducks ran out to a two
on one fastbreak. But Thomas stole the ball, and Cowling was fouled. She made
one, and the Bears repelled the Ducks’ challenge.
“It’s been tough the last couple of weekends,” said Mikayla
Cowling. “But we knew we had the opportunity to do something big, with the
tournament coming up. We wanted to give it our all this game, and then the
following game, and the game after that.”
“We’re expecting to put ourselves in the position to win the
[Pac-12 Tournament],” said Gottlieb. “I would not be doing my job, nor would
they be who they are if we go up to Seattle and don’t expect to win it. Why
can’t we win four games in four days? One match up at a time.”
Gottlieb on Alleyne: “Just sad for Jill Alleyne, sad for women’s basketball
that she will be out for the rest of the year. You get to know players when
they’re in the league, and what she’s done in her career is unbelievable
stats-wise, but more importantly, sticking through tough things. It’s hard to
go through a coaching change, and it’s hard when you’re not winning and to stay
with a program and help them get to winning. I think her mark on that program
is going to be as much about doing that as all the records. My heart hurts for
her, but I’m also not worried about her. She’s going to have a great career.”
Bears had 17 assists on 27 baskets. Cal had nine steals, with three each for Range and Cowling.
1543 attended the game.