Bears Upset No.13 Bruins 80-77

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By Viet Nguyen, Staff Writer
Posted Feb 3, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017 BearInsider.com


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The California Golden Bears put together an inspired team effort to earn their biggest win of the season, edging No. 13 UCLA, 80-77.


Cal (16-7, 4-7 Pac-12), which had lost seven of their last nine games, regained their early-season form on offense, with five players scoring in double-figures. Kristine Anigwe, Mikayla Cowling, and Mi’Cayton each had 18, while Courtney Range and Asha Thomas contributed 15 and 11, respectively.

“Our players played their tails off tonight,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “From Sunday, when we were at the bottom [after the loss to Washington State], to here, our players have been locked in. We were able to weather storms and great plays by UCLA.”

Making her second start of her career, freshman Mi’Cole Cayton sparked Cal right off the bat, scoring 11 of the Bears’ first 16 points. The Bears then withstood a furious third quarter run by UCLA and held on for the win.

UCLA’s Jordin Canada had a tough shooting night (7 of 24, 29%), as Cal held UCLA to 34% from the field. The Bruins (17-5, 8-3 Pac-12) made up the difference by making 23 of 24 free-throws, with Canada perfect on 12 attempts.

The two teams set a furious pace to start the game, resulting in a bunch of wild shots and turnovers. Cal finally got on the board courtesy of Cayton, who scored on a two-on-one break.

Kristine Anigwe hit while double-teamed and despite the foul. She converted the three-point opportunity.

Cayton hit a three and then attacked the basket to earn a three-point play of her own. Courtney Range scored on a putback, and then Cayton hit another three, giving Cal the 16-0 start and prompting a time-out from UCLA, halfway through the first period.

“That’s what [the defense] gave me, and my teammates did a hell of a job pushing the ball up the court every time,” said Cayton. “We knew that running in transition was the thing to do. That was what we worked on all week.”

“The number one thing was the energy that she brings,” said Gottlieb of Cayton's insertion as a starter. “Her ability to help us push in transition, and that allowed us to put Courtney at the four, where she could do some damage.”


Range had a game-high 12 rebounds and added three blocked shots.

“It was time for us veteran players to step up and make plays and help give more to the team,” said Range.

The Bruins missed their first eight attempts, and Kennedy Burke finally broke the string with a drive. Jordin Canada followed with two free-throws. Kelli Hayes hit a midrange jumper, and that was all UCLA could muster offensively in the first 10 minutes.

Range took a steal coast to coast, and Cowling’s drive closed the quarter, with Cal up 20-6. The Bears committed five turnovers, but compensated by owning the glass with a 13-7 advantage.

Anigwe scored underneath to open the second, and UCLA responded with six straight points as the Bears began to throw the ball away.

Range scored to help slow UCLA’s momentum, and then her hustle to grab an offensive board earned Cal another chance. The Bears converted the opportunity into a three by Asha Thomas. Cal continued to attack, with Thomas finding Cowling ahead of everyone for the lay-in, and Cal led 29-14, with 4:32 to go in the second.

Monique Billings scored twice in the paint, but Anigwe matched her with two baskets of her own.

UCLA’s pressure continued to turn Cal over, and four consecutive free-throws helped the Bruins close the gap to 33-22.

Range scored on short jumper, and Cayton closed her stellar half (13 points) with a decisive baseline drive, and the Bears were again up by 15.

Two more free-throws by Canada closed the half; the point guard hit all eight of her attempts from the line to help offset her 10 misses from the field.

UCLA edged Cal 18-17 in the second period, but trailed the Bears 37-24 at the half.

UCLA opened the third with a 12-0 run, powered by aggressive drives to the hoop that resulted again in free-throws, closing the gap to 37-34.

The Bears did not help themselves, with missed shots and mishandled passes compounding their problems on the defensive end.

Cowling finally hit for Cal, knocking down a long jumper, for Cal’s first points of the third, at the 5:14 mark.

But UCLA would not be stopped. Burke’s baseline jumper gave the Bruins their first lead of the game, 40-39, with 4:43 to play in the third.

Cal came back, led by Courtney Range. The senior hit two free throws, then locked down on defense, blocking UCLA on consecutive possessions. Cowling scored twice on the other end, and Cal edged back ahead 45-40.

“We knew that they weren’t going to go away,” said Range of the Bruins.

Another aggressive drive by Cowling, followed by two baskets by Thomas, including a corner three, and Cal was back up 54-46, with under two minutes to go in the quarter.

The Bears played tough defense for the rest of the period and held the 55-48 lead to enter the fourth.

“In some ways, the end [of the third] was the most significant part of the game,” said Gottlieb of the way the Bears came back after giving up the lead. “We never lost our mojo with it. We’ve been asking our veteran kids to step up, and they did tonight.”

Anigwe put back a Cayton miss to open the fourth, and the Bears stretched the lead to 59-48 when Cayton converted on a 3-on-2 break.

The two teams then went toe-to-toe in a terrific display of athleticism and will. The Bears got hot from the field, only to find UCLA matching them shot for shot. Thomas hit two threes, but Kari Korver hit two bombs of her own for UCLA. Still, when Range scored on a fastbreak, Cal had the 75-64 lead with 2:13 to go.

“We made our own breaks down the stretch,” said Gottlieb.

But the Bears have shown this season that they have trouble closing games. As with nearly every Pac-12 foe the Bears have faced this season, UCLA came back.

UCLA missed twice from distance but the Bears could not secure the rebound, and given a third try, Burke hit a three to close it to 75-68. Cal turned the ball over on the inbound, and Monique Billings hit a jumper from the elbow, and UCLA was within 75-70, with a minute to play.

UCLA sent Cal to the line, and Cowling sank both.

Canada came right back, and her three-point play closed the gap to 77-73.

The Bears once again struggled to enter the ball, and UCLA earned possession on a held ball. Canada knocked down a wing j, and the game was within one possession, 77-75, with 45 seconds still left on the clock.

Gottlieb called her last time out to steady her troops and to move the ball to the other end. The Bears ran down the shot clock, and Range missed her drive. But Asha Thomas snuck in for the rebound, and the diminutive point guard quickly found Anigwe inside for a score. Anigwe was fouled on the shot, and the sophomore hit the free-throw to give Cal the 80-75 lead with 14 seconds to play.

Canada missed a three, but Cal was called for a foul underneath, giving Nicole Kornet two free-throws. She hit both, and UCLA was once again within a basket, 80-77.

Cal managed to get the ball to Anigwe, and she was fouled. But Anigwe missed both, giving UCLA once last chance, with seven seconds to go, plenty of time for someone like Canada. The Bruin star hoisted up a three, but the shot was just off, and Cal survived.

NOTES:

“’You want to have fun, try winning. That’s fun,’” said Gottlieb at the beginning of the postgame press conference, quoting and paying homage to Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer, who won the 1000th game on this night.

Cal celebrated Chinese New Year at the game, with a lion dance and videos featuring sophomore center Chen Yue.

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