Cal Loses to Colorado, 64-59


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By Viet Nguyen, Staff Writer
Posted Feb 12, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017

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The California Golden Bears mounted a late comeback but fell to Colorado, 64-59. The Bears have now been swept at home this weekend by teams below them in the conference standings and now sit at 17-9, 5-9 in the Pac-12.

"It sucks," said Cal head coach. "Because we have a group who cares about each other and cares about our results. Colorado beat us today."

Colorado came out strong, running to off to a 17-4 advantage, a lead that the Cal never could overcome.

"We felt we were running uphill the whole time,"said Gottlieb. "Teams are too good to give people an eight-point cushion. We fought our way back but couldn't get over the hump."

The Bears held the Buffs to 35% shooting but could not overcome their own issue with turnovers, giving away 19 possessions.

Kristine Anigwe again fought through foul trouble for 15 points, while Asha Thomas had 14. Mikayla Cowling contributed 14 and five assists but also had five turnovers.

"We were rushing sometimes," said Cowling. "We need to slow down, make the play. I had a bunch of turnovers. They're a good defensive team, but we need to slow down, take control, and not give them momentum."

Zoe Correal played like an All-Star, notching 16 points and 15 rebounds for Colorado, both game highs. Alexis Robinson had 15 points, including three treys. The Bears held Kennedy Leonard quiet for most of the game, but the star guard hit a game-saving three at the end, finishing with nine points and seven assists.

Colorado hit a trio of threes to run out to an early 13-2 lead, as Cal struggled to match up on defense.

"We gave up too many open looks," said Gottlieb. "Our defense in the first quarter was not good."

On the other end, the Bears were unable to solve Colorado's zone, missing outside shots and drives.

Anigwe took her offense away from the paint, hitting two jumpers from the top of the key. A basket by Jaelyn Brown off the inbound closed the gap to 17-8, but Monica Burich buried a three to keep Colorado ahead.

Mikayla Cowling scored consecutive baskets to help keep Cal in contact, but Colorado continued to find open shots, either on the perimeter or through the drive and dish.

Anigwe picked up her second foul with a minute left in the first period and went to the bench.

Asha Thomas hit two free throws to end the quarter, with Cal down 24-16. Eleven of the Buffs' points came off Cal turnovers.

The Buffaloes continued to drive into the paint, forcing Cal to collapse and leaving Zoe Carreal open underneath. The post player hit consecutive gimmes to keep Colorado up by 10.

Penina Davidson and Mi'Cole Cayton helped Cal to up their intensity, battling for rebounds and possessions. Two Davidson free-throws and an aggressive drive and reverse finish by Cayton closed the gap to 28-22 halfway through the second period.

Davidson grabbed a couple more rebounds, then knocked down a scoop shot to get Cal within four, the smallest deficit since the beginning of the game.

Colorado came right back with a three from Quinessa Caylao-Do and consecutive baskets from Haley Smith.

Cal held the ball for the final possession. But emblematic of their half-court offense for the first 20 minutes, after a couple of passes, the Bears ended up with nothing better than a contested rushed three, which missed. Cal only managed to whittle one point off Colorado's first period advantage and trailed 35-28.

The Bears had a terrible start to the third quarter, with two turnovers sandwiched around Anigwe's third foul, which resulted in two free-throws for Alexis Robinson. A basket by Smith got Colorado the 41-31 lead at the eight-minute mark.

Courtney Range had a putback, and Asha Thomas hit her now-patented tear-drop and then split free-throws, and Cal was back within five.

But Cal's aggressiveness also came at a cost, as the Bears were called for multiple offensive calls.

Thomas continued to put Cal on her back, driving past a clear-out by Davidson for a lay-in and then rattling down the Bears' first three of the day (on 10 attempts). With less than a minute to do in the third, Colorado called time, with its lead down to 45-41.

"We're a much, much, much better team when we can hit some outside shots," said Gottlieb. "[The Buffs] do a good job of sagging and then recovering. It's not like they're sitting there daring us to shoot it. It's not like [Thomas] had multiple open looks; they're quick looks."

Cal played good defense on the next possession, but Alexis Robinson hit a turnaround jumper at the shot clock buzzer.

This time, the Bears executed at the end of quarter, with Cayton and Cowling playing a two-person game, resulting in a three by Cowling as the clock expired, drawing Cal within a possession, 47-44, with 10 minutes to go.

Cal began the fourth with consecutive turnovers, while Colorado worked the ball around to find open shots. Robinson's three gave the Buffs the 52-44 advantage, with seven minutes to play.

Cayton's steal and coast-to-coast lay-up ignited the Cal fans, and her lay-up after Range rebounded and pushed the ball brought Haas to a roar as Cal closed to 52-48.

Colorado kept calm, and Robinson hit a three, followed by another score by Correal.

Cowling hit inside and was fouled. She missed but Anigwe grabbed the rebound and was fouled. But Anigwe missed both from the line.

Correal put back a Buff airball to again give Colorado a nine-point cushion.

Cal made one more push. Thomas hit another shot in the paint, and then Cowling hit a three.

Cowling missed a three, but Cayton grabbed the board and slithered in for the basket, and Cal was within 59-57.

Both teams failed to score until Kennedy Leonard rose up and pumped in a long three with the shot clock expiring. Colorado's leading scorer had been one of 10 until that point.

Anigwe scored inside to draw Cal within 62-59, and on the ensuing possession, Cal trapped along the sideline and Cowling stole the ball with 20 seconds to go. The Bears called time with 12.8 seconds to go, with the chance to tie the game with a three.

As has been the case all season, the Bears struggled to get the ball in and Colorado plucked it away. After a foul by Cal, Leonard hit both free-throws for the final score.

"I have a pretty good perspective," said an emotional Gottlieb. "[Basketball] isn't Syria; nobody is a refugee. We're not losing our health insurance. We have a really good perspective about that.

"At the same time, if this is what you do for a living, and what [the players] do, in addition to school, you really care about it. This team, we're really good, and we're trying to get somewhere, and it's not happening as fast and as smoothly as we all wanted it to. But it's our story, and I have no doubt it's going to end in a positive way."

Rebounds for Rama:

Rama N'diaye, who last played for Cal during the 2010-2011 season, was in attendance. N'diaye, 29, is battling Stage 2 breast cancer.

N'diaye introduced the Gummi Bear toss before the game, and then returned at halftime. She was flanked by younger brother Karim and former teammates: Eliza Pierre, Tierra Rogers, Shantrell Sneed, and Natasha Vital.

Also at her side was team trainer Ann Caslin, who has spearheaded Rebounds for Rama, an effort to raise funds to support N'diaye with financial hardships incurred as the result of her undergoing cancer treatment.

"I want to say thank you to everybody, for the support," said a tearful N'diaye, standing at half-court after the 3000 fans in attendance gave her a sustained ovation.

"The most important thing today was to have Rama here and for the community to support her," said Gottlieb. "The outcome of the game means nothing compared to that."

To support Rebounds for Rama:

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