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No. 18 Cal Falls to UCLA in overtime, 84-79

January 4, 2019
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The No. 18 California Golden Bears fought back from a double-digit deficit to earn a late lead but were unable to hold off UCLA, falling 84-79 in overtime.

Kristine Anigwe had 32 points, and Asha Thomas had 16, each hitting one big shot after another to get Cal back into the game.

But the Bears could not hold off UCLA.

Michaela Onyenwere scored 29 for the Bruins, and Kennedy Burke had 19. Both had key offensive rebounds and putbacks late that were pivotal in a close game. UCLA collected 16 on the offensive glass.

“What a game!” said UCLA head coach Cori Close. “Down the stretch, it was about rebounding and free-throws, and we were able to come up with some of those.”

UCLA hit 15 of 20 free-throws, including seven of eight in overtime. The one miss, UCLA scored on a putback.

“At the end of the day, we fought really hard against a great team to put ourselves in the position to win,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “But we also did some things that were under our control to get a deficit in the first place.”

Cal committed 19 turnovers, which UCLA converted into 23 points.

The Bears have lost three in a row, and are now 9-3 (0-1 Pac-12); UCLA improves to 9-5 (2-0).

 

 

 

UCLA and Cal traded the lead for the first five minutes of the game, as both teams engaged in very physical play, with players diving after every ball and fighting for every possession.

Lajahna Drummer scored five quick points for the Bruins as UCLA held the 9-7  lead.

McKenzie Forbes, coming off her breakout performance of 22 points in the last game, came off the bench and immediately hit a three. Recee Caldwell’s jumper edged Cal back ahead, 12-11.

Leading scorer Michaela Onyenwere showed off her impressive game, scoring three consecutive jumpers to end the quarter, with UCLA ahead 17-16.

Kristine Anigwe hit inside to open the second period, but Chantel Horvath responded with a second-chance lay-in and a three to keep UCLA ahead.

McKenzie Forbes, matched against a smaller defender, took her down low and scored as both offenses got going.

With the score tied at 24, UCLA used its length and put more pressure on the Cal guards, and the Bruins converted the turnovers into points on the other end, scoring seven in row to open up the largest lead of the game, 31-24.

A Forbes three broke the string, and a putback by Anigwe closed the gap to within a possession.

Over-aggressive and poor decision-making continued to plague the Bears, and UCLA took advantage, spreading the floor and using their superior quickness to find open shots. Five different Bruins scored as UCLA closed the half with a 10-3 run to lead 42-32.

Cal committed eight turnovers in the second quarter, which led to UCLA taking nine more shots than the Bears.

“There are a couple of different ways to play us,” said Gottlieb. “There’s the sagging way of putting everyone on Kristine. And then there’s pressure the heck out of everyone. So no matter how much Kristine is open, we might only get to it half the time. We turned the ball over too much. The first half, we were bad at what we were supposed to do offensive. Most of the time when we didn’t get the look that we wanted, it was because of the pressure on the ball.”

As the third started, the Bears looked to establish their post players, with Jaelyn Brown and Anigwe scoring. But the Bears could not make much of a dent in the lead, as UCLA continually sniffed out and swatted away entry passes.

Onyenwere’s three at the 6:33 mark kept UCLA ahead 51-40.

Even when the Bears seemed to have an open look at the rim, UCLA recovered quickly. Lauren Miller blocked two shots, and Lindsay Corsaro stripped the ball on an Asha Thomas fastbreak.

But the Bears stayed with it. Kianna Smith hit one of her patented never-hurry scoop shots. Anigwe fought through multiple defenders for three baskets inside. Thomas continued to attack, earning two free-throws and pulling Cal within 53-50.

On the next possession, UCLA attacked baseline, but Anigwe rose up on defense, walling off Kennedy Burke and knocking the ball loose. The Bears recovered the ball and Smith raced ahead. Much like in the UConn game, she found an open Asha Thomas on the wing. This time, Thomas nailed the trey, and Cal tied to game at 53, sending the crowd into an uproar and forcing a UCLA time out.

After the Bears again played tough defense and forced a miss, Cal ran down the shot clock on the other end. With Anigwe bottled up, Thomas got into the lane, and her floater just beat the buzzer, and the Bears took the 55-53 lead into the fourth.

“Our third quarters are our best quarters,” said Anigwe.

“Give credit to Cal,” said Close. “We went down significantly in the rebounding margin in that particular quarter.”

Cal out-rebounded UCLA 12-5 in the third.

UCLA quickly tied the game on a Burke score in the paint to open the fourth, and the two teams settled in for a battle.

Cal earned a 59-55 lead after a score by CJ West and two Anigwe free-throws. But UCLA came right back with eight straight points, including a three by Onyenwere, to lead 63-59, with five minutes to go.

Four Anigwe free-throws slowed UCLA’s momentum, pulling Cal within 64-63.

Cal slapped on a zone, which seemed to throw UCLA out of rhythm; the Bruins missed three consecutive shots on one possession. 

On the other end, Anigwe hit once again to give Cal back the lead.

Thomas added two free throws for Cal, but Japrece Dean countered with a smooth midrange jumper.

UCLA put on pressure, but this time Cal broke the press and found Anigwe underneath.  69-66, Cal, with 1:40 to go.

But the Bears could not keep UCLA off the free-throw line, and Burke hit both.

With the clock again winding down, Thomas used every move she ever learned on the East Oakland playgrounds to get into the paint and then managed to hit a circus shot off glass, earning Cal the 71-68 lead, with 42 ticks left in the fourth.

UCLA again got to the line. This time Lajahna Drummer split free throws, missing the second attempt. But Onyenwere beat everyone to the ball, and her putback tied the game, with 17 seconds left.

“We wouldn’t have won the game without that rebound,” said Close. “It is the absolute difference in the game.”

After a Cal time out, the best the Bears could manage was a wild hook from Forbes, and UCLA grabbed the rebound with 4.2 seconds to play.

“Pressure, pressure, pressure,” said Gottlieb. “That’s not the look we drew up, but she had to make a play.”

“We put Kennedy Burke on Asha Thomas,” said Close. “She’s not only 6-2 but she’s got a 6-5 wingspan. We told her to lock up on Thomas.”

UCLA called time and the Bruins got the ball to Dean, whose runner just bounced off the rim, sending the game into overtime.

 

In overtime UCLA continued to try to beat the Bears off the dribble, with great success.

UCLA isolated Forbes on defense, with Corsaro blowing by the freshman and getting to the line. Her free-throw gave UCLA the lead, 72-71. 

UCLA edged ahead 76-71 on Burke’s lay-up.

Cal pushed back one more time, with four straight points from Anigwe closing the gap to on, with just under two minutes left.

Then came a crucial no-call: with the Bears holding possession and playing for the lead, Jaelyn Brown lost the ball at the top of the key. There seemed to be a lot of contact, but no whistle. Burke ended up with the ball, and Dean found Onyenwere ahead for an easy score.

“It was that call,” said Gottlieb when asked about the officiating. “And then the next call after that was a critical one--what looked like a blocked shot by Kristine.”

Instead Anigwe was called for a foul, and two Onyenwere free-throws gave UCLA the two possession lead, 80-76, with 24 seconds to go.

After the Cal time out, Thomas knocked down the corner three, pulling Cal with one.

The Bears fouled immediately. Burke hit both free throws, and Bears were again down 3, 82-79.

Kianna Smith’s attempt was way short, and on the other end, Dean rattled in both free-throws, closing out the win for the Bruins.

 

 

An emotional Lindsay Gottlieb believes that her team has the maturity to bounce back and learn from the adversity:  “I’m so invested in this team. I’m riding with this team. This conference is really really good. The way we can separate is not this conference getting easier, it’s us being better, and us doing things all the time that separate us. We did that for a lot of this game--we really did--we just didn’t do it for 40 minutes. I think there were things down the stretch that should have gone differently--both things in our control like the box out on the free-throw line. We have to be better tin order o be the elite team we want to be. Nothing is going to get easier; we have to get better. This team understands that.”

“I don’t think anybody wants to lose three in a row,” said Anigwe. “Next game has to be a win. I believe in this team. We understood what it took to get back into this game. We just couldn’t finish it. It’s’ not going to happen like this again. We will capitalize on this loss. We’re going to learn how to close games.”

“We’ve been through this before,” said Thomas. “So we know how to react to that, how to get our team to focus on the next game and change what we need to change.”

 

 

 

 

 

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No. 18 Cal Falls to UCLA in overtime, 84-79

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