Cal Basketball

Bears Pound BYU in Team Effort, 70-45

December 16, 2017
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All season long, the Bears have touted their improved depth, saying that they are more than just All American Kristine Anigwe. Against BYU, Cal proved it, winning 70-45.

“We were good today, from the start,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “The leadership from Mikayla, Asha, and Penina was great. This is a signal that we’re a good team.”

Anigwe (leading the Pac-12 with 18.7 ppg) did not suit up due to "Coach's Decision." 

Mikayla Cowling led the way with a season-high 21 points, and Kianna Smith contributed 12. Asha Thomas and Penina Davidson each had nine.

“Being down one of our main scorers, we all had to step up,” said Cowling.

Cowling finished with four of five from beyond the arc; she came into the game four of 18 from three for the season.

“I just kept shooting,” said Cowling. “I know early on in other games, they weren’t falling. But just being consistent, keep taking the same shots, and eventually they’ll fall.

But on this night, the Bears did it with defense, holding BYU to 31% shooting and 25 points below their season average of 70 points per game. Cal also pounded BYU on the glass, 55-36, with freshman Alaysia Styles leading the way with a career-high 11.

BYU’s leading scorer Cassie Devashrayee (21.6 ppg) was held to 10 points.

“More than anything, it was [Cowling’s] defense on Cassie, who is quite a player,” said Gottlieb. “Held her to four for 15. Kayla started us off, and we fed off of that.”

Cal is now 8-2, while BYU falls to 4-6.

 

Kianna Smith opened with three. Mikayla Cowling posted up her smaller defender, and CJ West waited for the seal and fed Cowling for the score.

With BYU content to heave and miss from the outside, the Bears grabbed the long rebounds and ran, with Smith finding Penina Davidson ahead of the pack for the 7-0 lead and a Cougar time out.

A mid-range jumper from Smith, two Davidson free-throws, and a second-chance basket by Alaysia Styles increased the lead. Davidson hit a reverse, and a focused Bear team was ahead 15-2.

Malia Nawahine stopped the Bear 8-0 run with a three. It was the Cougars’ second and last basket in the first 10 minutes, as Cal was active and alert on defense, closing out on outside shooters. BYU was held to 16.7% shooting for the quarter.

“We mixed up our defenses,” said Gottlieb. “We forced them into tough shots.”

The Bears also dominated the glass in the quarter, 14-5, with five offensive boards leading to seven second-chance points.

Smith beat the buzzer to give Cal the 22-5 lead.

Cowling scored two baskets to open the second. The senior forward, who often looks to get others involved rather than for her own shot, had nine points in her first 11 minutes of play.

Jaelyn Brown earned consecutive buckets with her speed and activity, earning Cal the 30-9 lead with 6:45 to go before the half.

BYU went on a 7-0 run as Cal went cold, with multiple shots rolling off the rim. Cal managed only two free throws in the next six-plus minutes, and BYU patiently ran their offense for open shots, closing to within 32-21.

Cowling’s three on Cal’s final possession salvaged a poor second quarter for the Bears.

Cal’s offensive futility continued after halftime, as the Bears managed to hit only one of their first four shots, while committing two turnovers.

Asha Thomas took it upon herself to get Cal out of its funk, sandwiching two treys around an aggressive drive. Her personal 8-0 run gave the Bears the 46-23 lead halfway through the third.

Thomas missed her next trey attempt but chased down the rebound and found Brown, whose short jumper rattled in.

Cal’s defense once again stymied the Cougars, who managed only one basket while committing six turnovers in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. The Cal lead grew to 28 before BYU hit consecutive threes, after having gone one for their first 16 attempts.

But Smith hit another buzzer-beater, this time a three, and Cal entered the fourth up 58-31.

“She likes to show off a little bit,” said Cowling.

Smith was playing in front of her family, including her father, who is the Associate Head Coach for CSU Fullerton’s men’s team. The Titans took on Cal in the earlier game of the double-header.

“I was just playing basketball,” said Smith. “My dad and my dad’s players have watched me when I was at Troy, since it was just across the street. So it was nothing different. But it was still a lot of fun to have them here at Cal.”

Shalae Salmon scored twice inside for BYU, prompting Gottlieb to try a different match up, putting Chen Yue in the game. Chen and Davidson did well in shutting down the paint, but on offense, the Bears struggled with the different combinations, hitting two of six shots while committing three turnovers.

But ultimately, it did not matter, as Cal had built a big enough lead to coast to the victory. Cowling did hit two threes to close out her stellar evening.

“I just want to see compete every day, to be a championship team by the end,” said Gottlieb. “We have a lot of depth. We have good pieces. We have young players playing significant minutes, so they’re getting better. As a group, we have room to grow. So I want us to fight every day to be the best team that we can be. We talked about BYU and Kentucky—about seeing that as the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament. Gotta win the first one, now let’s go take care of the second one.”

Cal closes its non-conference slate at Kentucky on December 21, at 9am (PT). The Wildcats were ranked in the top 25 for much of this season, until recent stumbles against Florida Gulf Coast and Miami.

 

 

NOTES:

·      Anigwe was held out because of “Coach’s Decision.” Gottlieb refused to elaborate: “It was my decision. We’re good moving forward. She’ll be ready to go for Kentucky.”

·      Cowling was honored before the game for joining the 1000-point club.

·      Kianna Smith’s older brother Jamal is the starting point guard for Fullerton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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