Photo by Cal Athletics

No. 18 Cal Holds Off USC, 66-59

January 6, 2019

After the Bears lost a heartbreaker to UCLA on Friday night, Kristine Anigwe vowed that Cal would learn “to close out games.”

The senior star was not around to assist in the effort, having fouled out halfway through the fourth, but No. 18 Cal fought through to earn the 66-59 win over Southern California. En route, the Bears endured foul trouble and a monster game from USC’s Mariya Moore.

Moore, the senior transfer from Louisville, hit seven threes and scored 36 points. But the local product from nearby Salesian High did not get much help from her teammates. While Moore hit 13 of 22 shots, the rest of the Trojans only managed to make nine of 34 attempts (26.5%).

“We battled through those things that can happen in a game,” said California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb.  “Just really proud of the work that our players did to put themselves in the position to win. The team we were today is an indicator of the team we can become.”

Cal was led by Anigwe’s 21 points, followed by Asha Thomas’s 12. Receé Caldwell and McKenzie Forbes each had nine.

Anigwe also had 16 rebounds. The Bears out-rebounded USC 37-31. 

Cal improved to 10-3 (1-1 Pac-12), breaking its three-game losing streak. USC falls to 10-4 (0-3).


Cal looked to establish Kristine Anigwe early down low, with Kianna Smith dribbling into the paint and lofting a perfect short lob inside for the game’s first score.

USC countered with superior quickness and strength on the perimeter, getting to the basket or picking up fouls.

Another Anigwe score between threes by Smith and McKenzie Forbes earned Cal the 10-5 lead. But the senior soon earned her second foul battling for a rebound, and she went to the bench with just under six minutes left in the period.

Jaelyn Brown tried to pick up the slack with a three-point play, but she too picked up her second foul--on a moving screen--with 4:52 to go. 

In response, the Bears put Anigwe back in and played zone to buy some time. The Bears managed to hold on to the lead, bolstered by a three from Receé Caldwell.

But Mariya Moore got hot for USC. The senior transfer scored eight points--including two threes--as the Trojans closed to within 18-15 after the first 10 minutes of play.

A missed three at the shot clock buzzer from Cal became a run out the other way, and Mariya Moore converted a three-point play to tie up the game.

Another poor offensive possession from Cal forced another missed heave from three, but this time Brown fought for the offensive rebound and putback. She was fouled and knocked down the free-throw.

Two more offensive rebounds led to four more Cal points, and Cal was up 25-18.

But just as the Bears seemed to build momentum, a sloppy outlet pass under their own basket became a turnover, and Minyon Moore turned it into a three-point play. More Cal miscues kept USC on the attack, and a three from Shalexxus Aaron closed it to 27-26, with 4:30 left in the second.

The physical play escalated, with complaints to officials coming from both sides. 

The Bears played terrific defense and forced USC deep into the shot clock, but Mariya Moore simply backed up and hit a 35-foot buzzer beater to tie the game at 29.

Cal came right back with its own 6-0 run to close out the half. Anigwe split free-throws, then Forbes hit her second three. Thomas followed with a long bomb of her own, and Cal went into intermission up 36-29.

Cal had seven second-chance points to zero for USC in the first half. Anigwe led the way on the glass with 10 rebounds to go with her 11 points, earning her 13th double-double this season.

Mariya Moore had 18 points on seven of 10 shooting.

“I thought in the first half, our defense was really good,” said Gottlieb. “The team bought in on a one-day prep of containing penetration, not fouling, contesting different shots. Mariya’s shots were crazy, and that was good offense rather than bad defense. I thought we were in control.”

Asha Thomas got into the key and her scoop shot dropped to open the third. Anigwe scored inside to complete the 10-0 Cal run bridging the quarters, and Cal led 40-29.

Ja’Tavia Tapley got USC on the board with a tough reverse, but the Bears continued to attack. Smith used her smooth handle and change of pace to get to the hoop, and then after a steal by Anigwe, Caldwell found Thomas at the top of the arc for a three. Cal was up 45-31 with three minutes gone in the third.

Two more USC turnovers became Anigwe baskets. On the second, Forbes found herself swarmed by three Trojans but stayed calm and found Anigwe alone underneath. The newfound Forbes-Anigwe connection worked again a few possessions later, this time earning Anigwe two free-throws and Cal the 51-33 lead.

Mariya Moore, who had been scoreless in the third, knocked down two threes, quickly closing the gap to 51-39.

“Mariya F’ing Moore! Could she hit another shot in her home gym?” said Gottlieb after, making clear that the comment was said “in the most loving and respectful way.”

“If Mariya doesn’t score 36, we’re blowing them out,” said Anigwe. “She turned out for her hometown.”

Moore would add one more free throw at the end of the quarter, but Thomas and Anigwe each scored for the Bears, and Cal turned in a dominant third, playing team ball on both ends. Cal shot 53.3%, with five assists on eight baskets, and held the Trojans to four baskets and 31% shooting on the other end. As a result, Cal had the 55-40 lead after three.

USC quickly erased all of Cal’s momemnt in the opening moments of the fourth. Kristine Anigwe picked up her fourth foul on USC’s opening possession and went to the bench. Mariya Moore hit two more threes, then found a streaking Tapley for another basket, and USC was within single digits, 57-48, with 7:20 to go.

After a Cal time out, the Bears only managed two rushed missed threes on their ensuing possessions. On the othe end, Minyon Moore took advantage, hitting a tough runner to continue to whittle down the lead even more.

The Bears put in Mo Mosley and Anigwe for defense, but Anigwe picked up her fifth foul with five minutes to go. On the play, Kayla Overbeck hit both free throws. 

The Bears would have to try to win without their leading scorer.

“She’s so good at what she does, that a lot of what we do feeds off of that,” said Gottlieb. “But having her out and none of us panicking is a good sign. We had to settle ourselves.”

With three minutes to go, USC called time. On the next possession, Mariya Moore missed a three, and the Bears fought for two held balls and regained possession.

Receé Caldwell hit a tough jumper to push Cal’s lead back to 63-54 with 1:12 to play.

“I feel like I’ve been really hesitant--overthinking a lot,” said Caldwell of her recent challenges and how she pushed through down the stretch. “Just knowing that I know the game, it’s going to come. Just having the mindset and be really locked in on what I need to do to help the team.”

But Mariya Moore wasn’t done. Right after Caldwell’s shot, Moore pushed the ball and outraced everyone, and her three point play narrowed the lead to 63-57 with a minute to go.

Cal missed a three, and Moore again blew by defenders, scoring through the contact. She missed the free-throw, but USC was within 63-59, with 36 seconds left.

Would the Bears fold again under pressure? Not this time.

After timeouts by both teams, USC fouled to put the Bears on the line, and Asha Thomas hit both with 20.8 seconds to go and brought Cal’s advantage to 65-59.

USC got Mariya Moore a wide open corner three, but she missed. Forbes grabbed the rebound and was fouled; she split her free-throws, and the Bears had a three-possession lead, 66-59, with 14 seconds left.

Forbes stole the ball on USC’s final possession to close out the win.


“When you give yourself a cushion, it’s always easier to close out games,” said Anigwe, pointing out the Bears’ good work in the third. “The fourth quarter did not go our way, but we were able to survive because we had that cushion.”

“We haven’t won in three weeks,” said Gottlieb. “It feels good to be rewarded for the work. We needed to win today, and these guys earned it. I was a little bit edgier all game. In my mind, I wasn’t going to let them have a minute or two minutes where we lowered our standard. That intensity level was there all game.”

“We knew today was a must win,” said Caldwell. “We know winning is contagious, so hopefully this sparks us in the next weeks.”

The Bears will now take to the road, traveling next weekend to face Arizona (1/11/19) and No. 22 Arizona State (1/13/19).




Receé Caldwell on playing against her sister Desiree: “It’s kind of surreal. When I first saw her, I was like, ‘Awww, that’s my baby.’ I was so proud of her. She’s impacting a winning team and has a lot minutes. I could not be more proud of her; it makes me happy.”

Gottlieb on playing different combinations: “It’s what you need. As the conference progresses, the teams at the top are the teams that can figure out ways to beat different teams. I thought Jaelyn Brown was terrific today in any number of ways; we can use her in different places. McKenzie Forbes’s ability to play different positions helps us. They really embrace it. I still have some figuring out to do of how I can best put them in position to succeed. But we have a deep team, and we have a versatile team.”

2212 attended the game.


Tags: WBB
Discussion from...

No. 18 Cal Holds Off USC, 66-59

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Mariya Moore, WOW

Mariya and her sister (Minyon) who also plays for USC are from Antioch. How did Cal let her get away?

Interesting that Recee's sister plays for USC. She didn't do much in the game, but as a freshmen playing 34 minutes, she must be pretty good.

Cal seems to make things interesting, after being up big in the 4th. Then KA fouls out, we have a bunch of bad shots/turn overs, and USC starts scoring. Fortunately Recee made a few baskets near the end of the game, when we were on our heels. They were mostly forced shots, but they went in to avoid the upset.

Seems like the Pac is very strong again. No easy wins, and losing to UCLA at home really hurt.

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The Moores are from Hercules and played at Salesian. When Gabby Green committed to Cal, Moore was not going to come here. Green was rated higher in early high school but Moore passed her by her senior year. So we got the two St. Mary's girls, Green and Cowling and we didn't get Moore. Saw them many times in high school.
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