"I'm really proud of our team," said Gottlieb. "I think it was a huge step for us to get here, and not just to prove to people that we belonged in the tournament, but more taking a look forward, I think this is a group that can do some special things, and we needed this experience. We needed to see that we could win a game on this stage, and we also needed to be humbled and see what a No. 1 seed looks like, because that's where we want to be."
Kristine Anigwe had 20 points and 11 rebounds, both game highs, to lead Cal.
Baylor showed itself a dominant team on both sides of the court. The Lady Bears harassed Cal into 29% shooting and 24 turnovers.
A game after its post players dominated on offense, it was Baylor's guards and wings that took over the game. Seniors Nina Davis and Alexis Prince each scored 16, while Kristy Wallace had 10.
But it was Baylor's team game that impressed. The Lady Bears executed on offense, notching 28 assists on 34 baskets, as 11 of 12 players who got in the game scored.
"I thought all of them were big tonight," said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey of her team. "I thought our depth has surfaced big time in these two
playoff games. We knew we had depth. We've seen it all year. You've seen them play. But you
don't know how they're going to produce in the NCAA Tournament."
Cal, on the other hand, showed none of that balance, with only Anigwe making an impact on offense. But the sophomore also had 11 turnovers as Baylor blanketed her every move. The Bears finished with nine assists.
Cal's season ends at 20-14. Baylor moves on to play Louisville in the round of 16.
Kalani Brown showed off great footwork to work around Anigwe and scored the game's first basket. Anigwe attacked underneath and earned a foul against Brown, hitting one free throw. Brown then got called for climbing over Anigwe's back and left the game only 70 seconds in.
"If you had told me that we would start the game and we would get Kalani two quick fouls, I would have thought that's favorable," said Gottlieb. "I would have chosen that, but I wouldn't also have been like, okay, now we're home free. You just know that their depth is a huge just weapon for them."
"They have like six 6'4" players, so I just tried to play them the same
way," said Anigwe. "And if one went out, another one came in, took her spot and played hard. Another one came
in, played hard. So I just tried to do the same thing."
Cal's strategy to attack off the bounce worked well, as Penina Davidson dropped the ball off to Anigwe for the 7-6 Cal lead, with Anigwe scoring five of those points.
Unfazed, Baylor went on an immediate run, ignited by senior Nina Davis, who used the supreme quickness to score two quick baskets. Two free-throws from Lauren Cox and a three by Alexis Prince, and suddenly the game became too quick for the Bears, as Cal began to commit turnovers: charging and mishandling the ball. The Bears missed seven shots in a row, and Baylor went ahead 15-7 with half the period gone.
After a time-out, it was Baylor's turn to get sloppy, throwing the ball away and missing four shots in a row. The Bears' drive and kick offense netted baskets from CJ West and Mikayla Cowling, the latter a three, and Cal ended the first quarter down 17-12.
Cal managed the keep Baylor off the glass, giving up only one offensive rebound in the first 10 minutes.
Baylor opened the second with a three from Alexis Jones and a long jumper from Lauren Cox, and Cal tried to keep pace with four more points from Anigwe.
Then things fell apart for Cal.
A putback from Beatrice Mompremier and a runner from Kristy Wallace earned Baylor a double-digit lead. After a free-throw from Wallace, the junior then showed off her ball-handling, scrambling the Cal defense until Baylor found Natalie Chou for consecutive bombs from beyond the arc, and all of a sudden, Cal was down 33-16.
"Kalani got in foul trouble, and Cox, freshman, goes in, and was big," said Mulkey. "Beatrice played big. Jones came in, and then
Natalie. We shared the ball, Kristy did a tremendous job of pushing the ball up the floor, but
looking to the backside and finding shooters, and when a shooter makes one, find her again and
let her make another one."
After a Cal time-out, Cal continued to look for Anigwe, and the sophomore earned two free-throws, Cal's first points in four and a half minutes.
"I thought the main thing was we struggled to score so much, which actually didn't even allow us to try to do our defensive game plan," said Gottlieb. "When you let them get going in transition, that's when they're up scoring in the high 80s and 90s, so if we could have scored more I thought we could have set our defense and maybe tried to at least bother them into some shots they weren't as comfortable with, but once they get going in transition now, now it's tough to get your doubles on the posts, it's tough to get a hand up on shooters, so I think our inability to score consistently was trouble."
Baylor continued to work its offense to find open shots, while Cal struggled to find good looks, as the Lady Bears collapsed on Anigwe to prevent the pass or would dig down should the sophomore try to make a move. With the ball so much in her hands, Anigwe committed six turnovers.
Still, it was clear that Anigwe was Cal's best option, as other Bears grew increasingly and visibly frustrated with Baylor's defense. Anigwe scored six of the Bears' eight points in the quarter.
At the half, Baylor had doubled up Cal 40-20. The Bears shot 26% while committing 14 turnovers.
The second half opened with a well-designed play by Baylor that freed Wallace cutting to the basket. On the other end, the Bears again found themselves in a scramble and unable to take advantage of their opportunities, with a second-chance three resulting in an airball.
The lead would balloon to 50-22 at 7:37 in the third, on the second of three consecutive baskets by Davis.
Even a three-point play from Anigwe and a three by Courtney Range did not earn the Bears any momentum, as Cal was unable to make a dent on defense.
As talented as they are, the Lady Bears relished playing as a team, with different players being featured in rotation. After Davis, Prince took her turn showing off her smooth moves. Then it was Wallace with an explosive first step and skying high for a rebound. Then Mompremier overpowered her defender underneath. The Lady Bears ended the third up 65-35.
The onslaught continued in the fourth, as Baylor opened with a 10-2 run.
Khadijiah Cave scored underneath to become the 11th player in the scoring column.
Cal freshman Jaelyn Brown continued to play hard, showing off a quick first step in getting to the basket and then taking a charge.
Senior Courtney Range hit a three with 1:29 to go for her final points as a Cal Bear.
"I mean, four years, I mean, it's gone by -- I wouldn't say fast. People say it goes by quick. I wouldn't say that. Yes, it has its ups and downs. It was fun, and I mean, the group of girls throughout my four years, I just love them all, and I'm happy that I chose Cal."
"I'm especially appreciative of Courtney Range, without whom we would not have gotten to this point," said Gottlieb. "Because there were some times in the year where it's rocky, and I think her leadership helped us get here, and I think next year when we're a better team and these young kids are playing deeper into the dance, we'll be talking about Courtney's leadership at that point."
"We will definitely miss Courtney, but we have the majority of our team coming back. We have some great kids coming in, and my challenge to them is let's not just be better next year by default, because other people graduate, but I want to be better because we've seen the bar and we want to get to the top. We have competitors in there. They expected to come in here and win.Not in any type of like unrealistic or -- but they're competitors. Like they're going to come and say we want to beat this team. So now we have to channel that into off-season workouts that get us to the point where we can and get us to the point where we can be first in the Pac-12, and I don't have a doubt that that's what's on the players' mind right now."