Bears Fall on Buzzer Beater, 69-66


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By Viet Nguyen, Staff Writer
Posted Jan 8, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017

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Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and wing Mikayla Cowling


Sunday’s game will probably be remembered as The One that Got Away.


The California Golden Bears (13-3, 1-3 in the Pac-12) fought back from a fourth quarter deficit to take control late in the game, only to watch Oregon and Sabrina Ionescu snatch the win at the last second, 69-66.


Sunday’s game will probably be remembered as The One that Got Away.


The California Golden Bears (13-3, 1-3 in the Pac-12) fought back from a fourth quarter deficit to take control late in the game, only to watch Oregon and Sabrina Ionescu snatch the win at the last second, 69-66.


Freshman Ionescu, playing her second game since returning from a four-game lay-off due to injury, hit a buzzer-beating three to cap a frantic end to a see-saw contest. Perhaps adding salt to injury, the Duck freshman is from nearby Walnut Creek (Miramonte High School) and was heavily recruited by Cal.


“We’re devastated,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We all made a lot of mistakes at the end. It was chaotic, and when we made mistakes, they capitalized on them. Sabrina made an amazing shot.”


Kristine Anigwe had 20 points, while Mikayla Cowling and Penina Davidson contributed 16 and 13, respectively. Anigwe had 10 rebounds, and Davidson had a team-high five assists.


Oregon (11-5, 1-3 Pac-12) was led by Lexi Bando’s 17 points and Maite Cazorla’s 14. The two accounted for seven of Oregon’s eight treys. The eighth, of course, was Ionescu’s game-winner. Ionescu had struggled all day shooting the ball, ending with five baskets in 20 attempts, for 13 points. Ruthy Hebard also had 13 and 10 rebounds to keep the Ducks competitive on the glass.


Kristine Anigwe scored on the opening possession, fading away from a triple team for a shot jumper. Anigwe scored again on a step-through, and Cowling hit a pull up, as Cal connected on their first three attempts.


Oregon countered with its own offensive outburst, exposing the spaces left open by the Cal defense: a three by Lexi Bando, a layup by Ruthy Hebard, and a top of the key jumper by Mallory McGwire.


The Bears continued to make Anigwe the focus, as the sophomore score four of Cal’s first five baskets. But instead of forcing the ball inside, Cal used a variety of plays that utilized screens and player movement to get their star open.


With the score knotted at 10 halfway through the first, both teams went cold, failing to hit a basket for the nearly three minutes. Mikayla Cowling broke the spell with a three, and Maite Cazorla closed the quarter with a jumper, leaving Oregon ahead 14-13.


Cowling made her impact felt. Directing the offense, the point forward zipped a pass inside to Penina Davidson, and the junior converted to give Cal the lead back. Cowling then called her own number, hitting a three. She found Anigwe with another pass, and Anigwe converted both free throws. Asha Thomas hit a three, and Cal had the 23-16 lead at 5:53 in the second.


Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu led Oregon back. Hebard converted a short jumper inside, then jumped the passing lane for a steal and outran everyone for a three-point play on the other end. Ionescu assisted on both baskets, and knocked down a short jumper of her own, and the Ducks were within one possession, 26-23.


After another three by Thomas, the Ducks made another push, aided by multiple Cal miscues. Sierra Campisano hit two free-throws and a jumper, and Bando’s third three of the game tied the contest at 30.


Cowling hit a jumper with six seconds to go and Cal led at the half, 32-30.


The two side traded scores for the first few minutes of the third quarter.


Hebard out-jumped three Bears to grab the offensive rebound and putback, giving Oregon its first lead in the second half, 37-36, at 6:42.


The same problems Cal has faced in their recent games resurfaced. The Bears continued to try to force the ball inside with passes over the top, which led to turnovers.  On the other end, the Bears repeatedly got beaten off the dribble, who found space for herself or when the Bears were forced to help, for her teammates. Hebard was the beneficiary multiple times, and her basket while all alone under the basket completed a 10-2 run and gave the Ducks a 47-40 lead with three minutes to go in the period.


To make matters worse or the Bears, Anigwe picked up her fourth foul shortly thereafter.


“When we win, it’s a team win,” said Anigwe. “When we lose, I feel that it’s all on me. They look to me to make plays, and I didn’t. I wasn’t there for my team.”


The Bears showed their fight, with Penina Davidson leading the way. The junior scored five consecutive points for Cal, including a three-point play that culminated a possession where Cal had four shots at the basket.


Cal closed the quarter down 51-47.


Davidson opened the fourth with a steal, and Courtney Range converted on the other end.  Two more threes, by Cowling and Davidson, and Cal found itself down only 56-55, with 6:11 to play. At that point, Cal had 19 assists on their 20 baskets.


Davidson continued her stellar play, this time fighting for an offensive rebound, and her putback basket edged Cal ahead, 57-56.


Cazorla’s three-pointer returned the lead to Oregon, 59-58.


Thomas missed a three, but Anigwe cleaned up underneath for a putback. With two minutes to play, Cal was back ahead 60-59.


After an Oregon miss, Cowling grabbed the rebound and found a streaking Cayton, who was fouled. The freshman hit both free-throws.


Davidson earned Cal another possession crashing hard on the glass. Anigwe split two free-throws. Two more free-throws by Thomas, and the Bears looked to be in control up 65-59, with 30 seconds to play.


Then all hell broke loose.


Ionescu pushed the ball down the floor and hit a pull up with 20 seconds to go to draw Oregon within 65-61.


After a time-out, Oregon fouled immediately. Davidson hit one of two.


Oregon wasted no time, and Cazorla hit a three with 12 seconds to go, closing the gap to 66-64.


Gottlieb, who had been losing her voice all weekend, enumerated her own problems down the stretch.


“To me, when you lose a game at the end, it’s on the coach,” said Gottlieb. “It was brutal. I tried to call time-out like 15 times when they cut it to two. I don’t know how the officials don’t look at me. I’m screaming my head off ‘Time out!’—that would have advanced the ball.”


Cal turned the ball over on the ensuing inbound right under its own basket, and Hebard found Cazorla for the quick score, tying the game at 66 with nine seconds to play.


Cal got the ball to Thomas and Oregon was called for a foul with four seconds to go.


“We got bailed out with the foul,” said Gottlieb.


This time, however, Thomas missed both.


Oregon had possession, and Cayton was called for a foul, with 2.2 seconds to play.


Gottlieb decided against calling a time-out, trying to prevent Graves—who was out of stoppages—to set up a play.


“I sort of thought, ‘With 2.2 seconds left, we could get a stop,’” said Gottlieb.


The Ducks took the ball out, got the ball to Ionescu, and the freshman hit the heart-breaking game winner.


“We have to maintain 40 minutes of always playing hard; we can’t pick and choose when to play hard, play fast, and smart,” said Cowling, waving away the Bears’ effort to come back in the fourth. “It comes down to the entire game, not the brief moments of celebration. We weren’t disciplined; we let shooters shoot. We didn’t take care of the little things on the defensive end, to take away from them what they do best.”


Cal will now have to prove that this is not a repeat of the spiral that occurred at the beginning of last season’s conference play.


“We’re better than losing three in a row; we’re better than being beaten on our home court,” said Gottlieb. “So we’re going to let this one hurt a while and then get back to work and go on the road and beat whoever is in front of us next.


“We have a group that is committed to what we do. We’re just not there yet, and we can’t kid ourselves that we are. But there is no question the feel is different. We have better leadership. There are people in the locker who will make sure that the freshmen are OK, or take ownership on themselves—what can I be better at? I’m not worried about coming to practice on Tuesday; I’m not worried about the next road trip. It will be nauseating to watch the film, but I’m going to show them what we did right and we did wrong, and then we will learn and move on.”









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