No. 8 seed California fell behind early to top-seeded and 6th-ranked Oregon State and could never fully recover, losing 65-49, in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Bears spotted Oregon State a 16-point lead early in the second quarter (23-7, 9:52) before storming back to close to within four. But the Bears could never get over the hump.
Cal (19-13) was led by Kristine Anigwe's 26 points and nine rebounds. No other Bear scored more than six points.
"We lost today to the Pac-12 regular season champs and a potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament," said California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "And they proved it." Ã‚Â
Cal matched Oregon State on the glass (37 each) and assists (11) and even had fewer turnovers (10 to 13). But the Bears could not overcome poor shooting, managing only 32% (21 of 65) from the field, including 18% beyond the arc (3 of 17).
Oregon State (28-3) was much more accurate, especially from distance (7 of 16, 44%) and at the line (14 of 15, 93%). Senior Sydney Wiese led the way with 26 points, six rebounds, and six assists, and Mikayla Pivec had 17 points and eight rebounds.
"Syd is terrific, and played like a senior," said Gottlieb. "I don't know if there is a guard that makes as many big shots as Syd does."
Sydney Wiese opened the scoring with two consecutive baskets, and Gabriella Hanson contributed another. Wiese hit another basket, this time a three, and OSU had a 9-0 lead.
"We literally go under one ball screen, and it's bucket," lamented Gottlieb.
Cal, in the meantime, tried to get the ball inside but found the paint clogged. Anigwe finally broke the seal on a drive from the top of the key.
"We missed a couple good looks early," said Gottlieb.
Oregon State's quick ball and player movement left Cal scrambling, and Mikayla Pivec took advantage, hitting consecutive baskets.
Anigwe was Cal's only option on offensive, scoring all of the Bears points as Cal trailed 13-6 with 4:30 to go in the first. Her aggression did help Cal to pick two fouls on Marie Gulich, who went to the bench.
But Cal could not take advantage, plagued by turnovers.
Oregon State finished the quarter with a flurry, scoring a 7-0 run. Pivec hit two free-throws, Wiese knocked down a cold-blooded pull up three, and Madison beat the buzzer with a jumper. After 10 minutes, OSU was up 20-7.
Wiese was fouled on a three to open the second period, and she hit all three free-throws.
Asha Thomas knocked down a three, and Courtney Range followed with another, giving the Bears some life. Mi'Cole Cayton then converted on a drive, and the Bears closed to within 23-15, forcing a time-out from OSU, with 7:10 on the clock.
Consecutive stops allowed Cal to continue the run, with consecutive baskets by CJ West closing the gap to 23-19.
"To fall down by that many and climb back to four, it shows we can compete," said Gottlieb. "But we need to take the next step."
Pivec's three halted the Bears' 12-0 run, but Thomas responded with her own trey, after West earned the Bears the second chance with an offensive rebound.
The Beavers came right back, closing the quarter with a 7-2 run. Kolbie Orum hit a turnaround in the lane, Pivec hit a corner three, and Wiese completed her 15-point half with two free-throws.
"When we went on our run, they then had five stops," said Gottlieb. "We won the second quarter by four, but we could have won it by 10. So it's tough. But they're really really good, and you have to be sharp for 40 minutes."
At the half, Cal trailed 33-24, as the Bears continue to struggle to solve the Beaver defense, managing to hit only 30% (9 of 30) in the first half.
Pivec hit a three to open the third, extending the OSU lead to 36-24.
Anigwe responded with consecutive short jumpers.
"When you're pushed around game after game, you have to do something else," said Anigwe about taking her game away from the basket.
But OSU's offense continued in high gear, with a three-point play from Gulich and another three from Wiese helping to keep the lead at a dozen.
Anigwe hit another jumper, but Oregon State continued to respond, as Wiese hit another pair free throws to keep OSU ahead, 46-34, with four minutes left in the period.
The lead would balloon to 50-34 to end the third, matching OSU's largest of the game. Cal looked stagnant on offense and perhaps fatigued, as shots repeatedly came up short.
The Bears had one more run in them.
Anigwe split free-throws to open the fourth, followed by a runner in the lane. Anigwe then passed off to Courtney Range for another basket, and when Cayton converted a steal into a basket for Brown, the Bears had closed to 50-41.
Orum scored to return the lead to double-digits for Oregon State, but Cal's defense created another turnover, and Anigwe scored again.
Wiese hit a three, and the lead remained at 12, 55-43, with 6:31 left.
Cal continued to rely on its defense. After a steal by Brown, Anigwe scored again. An emphatic block by Cowling led to an Anigwe layup. With 3:47 to play and the lead down to 55-47, Rueck called time.
Gottlieb put in Mosley to hound Wiese, and the tactic worked, resulting in an OSU shot clock violation. Cal would force another one, but the Bears could not convert on the other end.
Oregon State pushed the ball, forcing mismatches all over the floor, and Wiese took advantage, driving to the hoop for a three point play. The Beavers then again patiently ran their offense, this time finding Gulich down low for another and-one. Those two plays stretched the OSU lead back to 61-47, with 1:11 to play, and the deficit was too big for Cal to overcome.
"They're really good," said Gottlieb of OSU. "We pressured them and were able to make some plays. But they bend and they don't break. Maybe if we get one more basket and put real pressure on them, it's different down the stretch."Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Four more Gulich points and another Anigwe basket closed out the game.
Cal (19-13) now awaits their postseason fate.
"We are a postseason team," said Gottlieb. "I cannot fathom the Pac-12 not having seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, with what an incredible top to bottom conference it is. Our five to 12 is better than five to 12 in any other conference.
"I'm confident that we belong. It's hard to be confident about things out of your control, but I do think that the [Selection] Committee has evolved where they watch a lot more games. It's a weird year with the bubble, with a ton of teams with similar records and resumes. What puts us over the edge is that we have a top 10 RPI win over UCLA, and a top 20 RPI win over Oklahoma, and no bad losses because no one in our conference is outside the top 100. But the thing that makes me confident is we pass the eye test. If you watched the game today, you say, that team is a top 10 seed. We have a top 10, top 5 player in the country, and we can play with anybody."