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Cal Basketball

Bears Win Opener, 87-80, over St. Mary's

November 10, 2017


Six players scored in double figures as the No. 20 California women's basketball team opened their season with a victory over St. Mary's, 87-80, Friday at Haas Pavilion. Kristine Anigwe led the way with 17 points despite fighting foul trouble all game. 

Mikayla Cowling and Mi'Cole Cayton each scored 13, while Asha Thomas had 12 and Alaysia Styles had 11. Penina Davidson had 10 along with a game-high 12 rebounds.

"I love the balance that we have, with six players, almost seven, in double figures," Gottlieb said. "I thought that Kristine had a really good performance and Kianna (Smith) was absolutely huge down the stretch. To have a freshman point guard handle that kind of pressure is really huge for us."

The Bears closed out the game from an unexpected place--the free throw line--as frosh Smith hit all of her four attempts in the final 30 seconds. For the game the Bears connected on 19 of 26 attempts (73.1%).

St. Mary's was led by Stella Beck (22 points) and Megan McKay (17 points). Sydney Raggio had 10 points and 10 boards.

The game was tied at 66 after three quarters, but the Bears' defense tightened in the fourth, holding St. Mary's to 26% shooting. 

"I thought that we did a lot of really good things," said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "The thing I'm most proud of is how we took a punch in that third quarter and stayed composed and stayed together. We responded really well."


Anigwe returned from an injury that had kept her sidelined during Cal's exhibition game. The junior All-American promptly picked up an offensive foul fighting for an offensive rebound in the first minute.

"They did a good job taking me out of the game," said Anigwe of St. Mary's tough physical play.

Asha Thomas scored on a baseline to open the Cal scoring, knotting the game at two a minute in. St. Mary's edged ahead on a three-point play. Two more free throws gave the Gaels the 7-2 lead.

The Bears tried to drive and kick, but they couldn't connect from deep. 

Anigwe picked up her second foul with 6:12 left and went to the bench.

Mi'Cole Cayton gave Cal a boost, converting a steal into a breakaway basket and then hitting a three from the top of the key, pulling Cal within 9-8.

The Bears' mental errors continued to fuel St. Mary's: Cal's failure to box out on a missed free throw allowed a Gael putback, and poor transition defense gave up a wide-open corner three. Even when Cal played terrific defense and forced an airball, the Bears failed to collect the rebound. St. Mary's made Cal pay, pulling ahead 16-9.

A three by Thomas settled the Bears. Anigwe split free-throws to tie the game at 16.

Cal then slapped on the press, forcing two consecutive turnovers, which the Bears turned into a Mikayla Cowling layin and an Anigwe free-throw to edge ahead 19-16.

St. Mary's tied the game again, but consecutive baskets by Penina Davidson, both on rolls to the hoop, brought Cal the 23-19 lead at the end of the first period. 


Cal was unable to build on its advantage at the start of the second, as St. Mary's dribble penetration and quick ball movement continued to give the Bears trouble. The Gaels generated two quick threes, tying the game at 34 and prompting a time-out from Gottlieb, with 4:37 left.

The Bears then immediately went on a run, powered by aggressive play on both ends.

Davidson put back a missed three. Styles grabbed another oboard and earned two free-throws. Fellow frosh Kianna Smith scored her first points as a Golden Bear, using Davidson's screen to put in a scoop shot off the glass. Cowling found Cayton for a three.

On defense, Cal swarmed St. Mary's shooters on the perimeter and had good help inside, with Anigwe blocking a shot from behind.

A perfectly executed three-on-two break resulted in a Thomas basket, and the Bears had completed an 11-0 run.

The Bears maintained that lead (47-36) at the half, capped by Davidson's nifty reverse, which gave the senior forward 10 points to go with seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

As good as the Bears looked at the end of the second, they could not carry that momentum into the third. St. Mary's increased their intensity and aggression, beating the Bears in both hustle and execution. In particular, the Gaels owned the glass.

Four baskets by Megan McKay, who simply muscled the Bears aside and took over the paint, gave St. Mary's life. Better inside play then opened up the outside, and consecutive threes made it a three point game (61-58), with just under four minutes left in the third.

Trying to respond to the bruising play, the Bears could do little but to foul, and six Gael free throws tied up the game at 66 at the end of the third.

"We gave up too many points that quarter," said Gottlieb, pointing the 30 points scored by the Gaels. "I just told [the team], 'Forget about that quarter.'"


Early offense earned Anigwe a trip to the line to open the fourth. Anigwe, who had struggled all night from the line (2 of 7 up to that point), hit both. Another score by Anigwe gave Cal the 70-66 lead. However, Anigwe was immediately whistled for her fourth foul and had to exit the game.

Another three by Beck, her third, pulled St. Mary's close, and the Gaels' rugged play wore down the Bears inside, and St. Mary's earned one offensive rebound after another. McKay's layup gave St. Mary's the lead, 73-71, with just under six minutes to play.

Cayton knocked down a three to return the lead to the Bears, 74-73.

Anigwe returned to the game and knocked down a jumper from the elbow. McKay responded, beating everyone down the floor to keep the Gaels within one, 76-75.

In perhaps the key sequence of the game, the Bears gave St. Mary's a taste of their own medicine. After Cayton missed a three, Smith grabbed a offensive rebound but missed the layup, looking a little uncertain. But CJ West was right there for the rebound, and after the Bears reset, Smith called her own number when she found a wide open lane to the hoop. Her basket kept Cal ahead by three, but perhaps just as important, it raised Cal's intensity and enegized the crowd.

After a Cal steal, the Bears blew a a two-on-one break. The play also ended with Cayton in heap under the basket. The sophomore had to leave the game.

After the injury time-out, the Bears played solid defense and forced a miss.  

Smith missed a three, but West grabbed another offensive board, giving the Bears a second chance; in limited minutes, West repeatedly and effectively battled St. Mary's down low. Cal made good on the opportunity, as Cowling found Anigwe inside, and the Bears led 80-75, with 40 seconds left.

Smith fouled Beck, who hit two free-throws. 80-77.

St. Mary's immediately fouled Anigwe, who split free-throws to keep Cal ahead 81-77, with 37 seconds to go.

Foradilla matched Anigwe on the other end to keep the game within one possession.

Cal called time with just under 30 seconds to go and the shot clock off. Forced to foul, the Gaels sent Smith to the line, and the frosh hit both. 83-78 Bears.

"There are many things one can say about Kianna, but I think poise is at the top oft the list," said Gottlieb.

After a Gael time-out, Smith tipped and stole the ball. She hit two more free-throws, icing the game for the Golden Bears.

Gottlieb was excited by the team she has at her disposal this year.

"We're much deeper than we've been," said Gottlieb. "This allows us different combinations, and to weather some foul trouble. And I was really proud of the way we handled that fourth quarter."

The Bears will next go on the road to face No. 1 Connecticut on November 17.






Discussion from...

Bears Win Opener, 87-80, over St. Mary's

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I'm happy to see that you are writing for Bear Insider again! I am no longer working at Bear Insider so I didn't know that you are back!
Cal-i-for-nia. (Clap, Clap)(Clap, Clap, Clap)

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Thank you! I'm glad to be back.
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Nice writeup Pearbear. Any word on Cayton's injury.
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Always good to read PearBear. And, yes, please let us know about Cayton when you hear anything.
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Very impressed with the Freshman, especially Styles. Watching them confidently sink free throws, even in pressure situations, has been particularly great
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Great that you are continuing to cover WBB. I always enjoy your balanced coverage.

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