In a battle of top 20 teams, No. 20 California fell to No. 16 Oregon State, 66-56.
The Beavers dictated tempo, slowing down the high-scoring Bears. One of the best defensive teams in the country (9th in opponent FG%), Oregon State held Cal to 38% shooting, the Bears’ worst performance of the season.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t play well enough to win; it’s clear we didn’t, and this conference will teach you lessons and humble you really fast,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We’ve played two really great opponents back-to-back, and we’ve been in both games but just haven’t done enough of the little things we need to do to win.”
The Bears (1-2 Pac-12) have now lost two in row after winning 13 games to open the season. Oregon State has won 11 straight.
Kristine Anigwe led the way for Cal with 26 points, but Oregon State limited her touches and made her work.
Courtney Range had 10 points and nine rebounds, as Cal was pounded on the glass, 42-32.
For Oregon State (14-1, 3-0 Pac-12), Mikayla Pivec had 19 points; the freshman came into the game averaging 6.8 points for game. Breanna Brown had 14, and reserve Kolbie Orum grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
“I thought their role players did a really nice job,” said Gottlieb. “And while we managed most of them, we just weren’t able to defend [Pivec] effectively.”
"I was really pleased with our effort tonight," said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck. "I thought we got great performances throughout our lineup tonight, from everyone."
Marie Gulich hit a jumper from the top of the key to open the game, and Anigwe matched with a midrange jumper of her own.
Anigwe scored on consecutive putbacks, but Mikayla Pivec hit a corner three as Oregon State edged ahead, 9-8, halfway through the first period.
The Beavers continued to find open spots in the Bear defense, and mid-range jumpers by Gulich and Pivec gave OSU the 15-10 lead.
"This was our first true road game of the year, and Mikayla's first road game of her career, and she really set the tone for us early."
Cal responded with consecutive threes from Courtney Range and Asha Thomas, and Range’s baseline drive and pull-up knotted the score at 18 after the first 10 minutes of play.
The two sides exchanged baskets for the first three minutes of the second period, with Oregon State breaking Cal’s press for open jumpers and offensive rebounds. The Beavers would out-rebound the Bears 15-6 in the second quarter.
The Beavers paid for their aggressiveness, as both Gulich and Breanna Brown picked with their second foul. With the OSU starting frontcourt on the bench, Cal took advantage. Anigwe scored inside, and then freshman Jaelyn Brown drove the baseline for basket, giving Cal their largest lead of the game, 29-26, with 4:32 left before the half.
Oregon State battled back, fighting through active Cal defense with second-chance scoring and late-clock executive. Four consecutive baskets pulled the Beavers ahead 34-29, forcing a time-out from Gottlieb.
"We weathered that storm," said Rueck. "It was a key stretch of the game, when we went small. We talked about, 'We need to find a way right now!'"
Neither team scored for the final 1:42.
Breanna Brown took over in the third period. The local product (Bishop O’Dowd High School) scored thrice inside, extending Oregon State’s lead to 40-31.
"Just having my friends and family there, it was very exciting," said Brown. "It made me very aggressive and wanted to put on a show, to show them everything I've been working on."
“We know that she scores around the basket, she scores off the guard, and we gave her a few easy looks off of the press and I thought we gave her too many easy one-on-ones in the post—and we’re not happy about that,” said Gottlieb.
The Bears continued to struggle to find space inside, missing shots with Beavers draped over them. On the other end, Oregon found no such resistance, as Brown scored two more lay-ups. Pivec added another, and Cal fell behind, 46-33, with 4:47 left in the third.
Jaelyn Brown converted a stead into a score on the other end, but Oregon State continued to pick Cal’s defense apart with movement and pinpoint passes for easy scores. Another layup by Brown and one by Gabriella Hanson continued the onslaught.
"That's experience," said Rueck, recalling another game at Haas three years ago, when the Beavers folded at the end of the game, when Brittany Boyd and company ratched up the pressure. "The pressure makes your heart rate increase and you do things you don't want to do. To her credit, [Mikayla Pivec] is a freshman but plays like a senior. So you have Mikayla, Wiese, and Hanson out there, and the ball was taken care of. We made great decisions. Our spacing was good, and we adapted to their zones very well, and we executed the way it was drawn up. Our ability to play with poise was probably the most important factor to the game."
As the third quarter ended, Cal finally found some success on defense, holding OSU scoreless for the final 2:48. Unfortunately, the Bears also failed to score themselves, and the lead remained 50-37 entering the fourth.
Another perfectly run set play led to a layup by Kolbie Orum to open the final 10 minutes.
Cal fought back, force-feeding Anigwe inside. The Cal star responded with three consecutive free-throws.
Oregon State missed a couple of shots from outside, and when Asha Thomas sank her own three, Cal whittled the lead to single-digit, 52-43, with 7:31 to go.
Cal picked up their defensive pressure, and Oregon State seemed hurried for the first time in the game. Consecutive scores by Brown cut the lead to 57-50, at the four-minute mark.
Senior Sydney Wiese kept Oregon State ahead with a couple of baskets, and the Beavers continued to nurse their lead and trusted in their system, knowing that the clock was on their side. Anigwe scored twice more inside, but the Bears never threatened down the stretch, and Oregon State closed out the road victory.
"I thought you saw a lot of leadership on the floor, to weather the storm that is Cal," said Rueck of his team. "What they can do on the boards, on transition... we kept them from those areas, from dominating the way they're capable of."
“I was proud how hard we fought until the end, but I think we have to figure out how to do that with more consistency throughout the 40 minutes,” said Gottlieb. “We’re going to turn it around really quickly here for a good Oregon team coming in on Sunday, that’s our plan, and we’ll prepare well as a team.”
Cal hopes to get back to their winning ways on Sunday (1pm) against Oregon. The Ducks are 0-3 in the Pac-12 after losing 81-60 to Stanford tonight.