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Bears Drop Pac-12 Opener to Washington, 67-64

January 3, 2020
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The California Golden Bears opened the Pac-12 season by dropping a tough game to Washington, 67-64. The Bears fought back from a 13-point deficit to take the lead in the fourth, but could not overcome 31 points by Amber Melgoza, who hit the game-winner with 15 seconds to play.

“This is a tough one,” said Cal head coach Charmin Smith. “We just dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half and weren’t able to make enough shots and get enough stops down the stretch. We  showed a ton of fight, but still disappointed that we couldn’t come away with the win.”

Cal committed 17 turnovers, including 10 in the first half, when the Bears fell behind by double digits. The Bears also make only 32% of their shots for the game.

Jaelyn Brown and CJ West each had 12 points for Cal, and Evelien Lutje Schipholt grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. The Bears hit 18 of 20 free throws, helping them in their comeback.

Bears fall to 8-4 (0-1 Pac-12) for the season, while Washington improved to 10-3 (2-0 Pac-12).

 

Cal struggled early, finding passess cut off and committing consecutive turnovers on their first two possessions.

Alaysia Styles knocked down two free throws and a putback for an early 4-2 Cal lead. But Washington came right back with seven points in a row, powered by three more Cal turnovers and five points from Darcy Rees.

“We’ve got to get better and taking care of the ball,” said Smith.

“I honestly think it was more us than them,” said West when asked about the root cause of the Bears’ turnovers. “We were rushing and playing really fast and rushing ourselves. We were not very patient. It’s our first Pac-12 game, so all the adrenaline and the excitement sometimes cloud our judgment when we needed to be thinking about fundamentals.”

With both teams pushing the pace, play became sloppy and chaotic, with 10 total turnovers in the first five minutes of the game.

Amber Melgoza scored eight quick points to keep the Huskies in the lead. 

Jaelyn Brown found Jazlen Green open for consecutive threes, pulling Cal within 15-13. Brown then hit a pull up, tying the game at the 2:30 mark.

Melgoza came right back with another bucket, and two free-throws by JaQuaya Miller gave Washington the 19-15 lead after 10 minutes of play.

Melgoza continued her offensive attack, hitting four free throws to open the second and staking Washington to the eight-point lead. Brown picked up two fouls on those plays and went to the bench.

Without their leading scorer, and with Washington challenging every pass, the Bears struggled to generate any kind of offense.

Chen Yue gave Cal a lift with multiple offensive rebounds, resulting in a layup by Evelien Lutje Schipholt.

But on the other end, Rees stretched the floor with her second three of the game. With Yue now chasing Rees to the arc, Hayley Van Dyke found space in the paint for a score, stretching the lead to 28-17 and forcing a Cal time out, with four and a half left to the half.

A three by Cailyn Crocker and a putback by Yue gave Cal some life, but Washington continued to go to Melgoza, who either scored or used her gravity to find open teammates. Her assist to Missy Peterson closed scoring for the half, with Washington up 36-24.

Washington carved up the Cal defense for 52% shooting in the first half. Melgoza scored 18 points of seven of nine from the floor and four of four from the line.

The Bears hit an anemic four of 22 shots (18.2%) in the second period. 

Cal opened the third playing zone on D, forcing consecutive missed threes from Washington.

“We didn’t do much in the first half to mix it up [defensively],” said Smith. “With Jaelyn in foul trouble, we were a little limited. We tried the zone some in the second half, and I thought it was effective a little bit.”

On the other end, Cal executed their offense with crisp passing, finding open baskets from CJ West and Styles, pulling the Bears within 36-28 with just a minute gone in the period.

After a Washington timeout, Melgoza hit a short jumper. But on the other end, West beat everyone down the floor. She hit the basket and was fouled. West made good on the three-point play, narrowing the lead to seven, 38-31.

Brown scored five consecutive Cal points to help the Bears keep pace. 

Two more Melgoza baskets got Washington back up 46-36.

With 3:33 left in the third, Jazlen Green went down hard fighting for a rebound and had to be helped off the floor (she would later return to the game). Sara Anastasieska replaced her and knocked down both free throws and then a jumper from the baseline.

Cailyn Crocker had her pass picked off, but the freshman gave chase to Melgoza, who missed the breakaway layup. Crocker secured the rebound and was fouled. She knocked down both free-throws.

With Melgoza taking a breather, Cal made a push. A heady reverse by West, and two free throws by Anastasieska, and suddenly the Bears were within 52-46 with 10 minutes to play.

Cal shot better in the third (43%), but was really aided by their nine of nine performance from the line.

Cal forced the ball inside to open the fourth. Brown scored, and then West muscled down low to earn free throws, hitting both, and Cal was within 52-50.

Brown hit a three, McIntosh attacked one one one on a fastbreak, and then Anastasieska drove baseline for a score. She was fouled, and the senior knocked down the free-throw, and suddenly Cal had their first lead since the beginning of the game, 58-56, with 5:09 to go.

Mai-Loni Henson tied the game on the next possession. A free throw by Van Dyke gave Washington the lead back, 59-58.

With just under three minutes to play, a technical foul was called on the Bears, and Peterson hit both free throws. 

With the shot clock winding down, McIntosh called her own number, driving left and throwing herself at the basket. She was fouled and hit one, and Cal was down 61-59.

Green blocked Melgoza and grabbed the rebound and raced to the other end. The Bears worked the ball inside to West, who then kicked it out to Green. The freshman hit the three, putting Cal ahead by one, 62-61.

Lutje Schiphold then blocked a shot of her own and secured the rebound. She was fouled, and sank both from the line, giving Cal the 64-61 lead, with 1:15 to go.

The Huskies worked the ball inside to Henson, and Cal doubled her down low. Henson found Melgoza in the corner for an open three, and she sank it to tie the game, with a minute to play.

“We just had a really poor rotation off of [Melgoza],” said Smith. “That was really unfortunate.”

Brown’s short jumper rimmed out, and on the other end, Melgoza came around the screen and hit hers, putting Washington up 66-64 with 15 seconds to play.

Bears called time, advancing the ball. Cal found Green for the three, but her shot missed everything.

“We were struggling to get it into CJ and get the interior looks,” explained Smith. “That’s where a lot of our turnovers came. And I thought [Washington] would be more looking for that, so I thought it’d be crowded. Jazzy’s a gamer, and as is Jaelyn; I wanted to get a good look for them. And I had confidence in CJ and Ev that they could get the oboard. That was the thought process behind that.” 

Henson was fouled, and she missed her second free-throw, giving the Bears one more chance with 6.5 to play.

After another timeout, the Bears again found Green, but this shot was also errant, and the Bears lost the hard-fought game.

“At the end of the day, I think we can score more than 64 points,” said Smith. “We just missed too many shots. But we’re executing at the end of games really well, and those shots are going to fall, and we’ll have some more game-winners down the road.”

Cal will go for their first Pac-12 victory on Sunday against Washington State (7-7, 0-2 Pac-12).

“I do have a lot of confidence in this team, that we can bounce back and play well on Sundays,” said Smith. “They’re good with walking through things and retaining information and being able to put a game plan in place on just one day of practice.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: WBB, Jazlen Green
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