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Cal Basketball

Cal Crumbles against No. 11 UCLA, 82-46

December 31, 2017

The No. 20 California Golden Bears, riding high on a seven-game win streak, came crashing down in a 82-46 loss against No. 11 UCLA.

After a tight first quarter, the Bears simply wilted, scoring one basket and four total points in the second and the game was never a contest thereafter.

“I’m disappointed that we did not compete better,” said California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

Kristine Anigwe had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Asha Thomas contributed 12 points, and Mikayla Cowling had 11. But for a team that has been touting its depth all season, the Cal bench was outscored 30 to five.

But the UCLA defense was the story. The Bruin pressure was relentless throughout, giving Cal no space and speeding up the game. UCLA forced 24 Cal turnovers and scored 21 points off them and held Cal to 28.6%.

“I watched a lot of film on Cal, and they’re really really good,” said UCLA head coach Cori Close. “And we knew that the only way we were going to play our best and get what we want is to take them out of what they want to do.”

“We knew they would come out with a lot of pressure, and we didn’t handle it well,” said Gottlieb. “When UCLA is a good version of themselves, they’re really really good.”

UCLA’s whole team played well, and their senior stars dominated on offense. Monique Billings had 20 points (on nine of 11 shooting) and Jordin Canada had 16 points and nine assists.

Cal and UCLA are both now 10-3 and 1-1 in Pac-12.

Penina Davidson grabbed an offensive rebound and went up strong for the game’s first basket. Mikayla Cowling converted on a baseline drive, and Asha Thomas hit a three, giving Cal a quick 7-0 lead.

UCLA battled back, attacking the paint, with Monique Billings scoring two baskets. Kennedy Burke found space behind the Cal defense, hitting three consecutive baskets. A three by Jordin Canada knotted the game at 13.

UCLA’s aggressive in your face defense and quick hands created a flurry of Cal turnovers (eight in the first quarter), and the Bruins made it pay off on the other end, working the pick and roll for point-blank shots and earning the 19-15 lead after the first 10 minutes.

Defense continued to have the upper hand at the start of the second, as the two teams took turns missing shots and committing turnovers. Cal continued to pile up the turnovers, and only strong rebounding (22-11 edge) kept Cal in the game. Midway through the quarter, UCLA maintained a 21-18 lead.

Kristine Anigwe went to the bench with her second foul, and UCLA promptly went on a 11-0 run, powered by Canada’s ability to break down the defense and then finding teammates inside. On defense UCLA’s length really bothered the Bears, and the Bruins tipped passes on the perimeter and blocked shots inside.

“Jordin Canada is different than the average guard,” said Gottlieb about what made UCLA’s pressure so difficult. “She can really really pressure the ball and be disruptive. And then they have athletes on the backside of it; you think you have an open shot, then a 6’2 wing might be blocking your shot. It shifted the tide to make it into the type of game that they wanted.”

“We had one segment where we got 12 straight stops,” said Close. “And that just fuels the way we want to play.”

Penina Davidson’s free-throw finally broke the string with 1:37 left. It was the Bears’ first point in over six and a half minutes, and their final of the half. Cal finished the second quarter with only four points and trailed 34-19.

Asha Thomas hit a floater along the baseline, and Jordin Canada responded with a three.

UCLA continued to play in another gear, exhibiting their speed and quickness. Canada sped end to end, beating everyone to the hoop. Then on consecutive possessions, Billings and Lajahna Drummer got deep in the paint before the Cal defense could set, and UCLA continued to stretch its lead, 43-21.

“We can come at you with long pressure, with Chantel Horvat and Kennedy Burke,” said Close about her team’s defense. “And then we can have darting quick itty bitties like Jordin Canada and Japrece Dean. So I think it’s the waves of it. We wanted to put [Cal point guard Kianna Smith] in sped up decision-making situations, and we were able to do that.”

After a Cal time out, Cowling picked up her intensity. The senior knocked down a jumper, then assisted on a score by Anigwe.

But UCLA has senior stars of their own. Billings showed off the variety in her game, hitting a short jumper and a baby hook. Then Canada again squirted past everyone for a basket.

UCLA’s full court press created another turnover and basket, and a three by Japrece Dean extended the Bruin lead. A perfectly run play at the end of the quarter got fellow frosh Michaela Onyenwere an open jumper, and UCLA was up 58-30.

The onslaught continued in the fourth, with Cal missing layups while UCLA showed off its depth with more contributions from their bench. Local product Kelli Hayes hit a three and a jumper from the top of the key, and Chantel Horvath again exposed the Cal defense with a drive into a wide open lane.

The lead grew as big as 37.

To add injury to insult, reserve guard Sara Anastasieska left the game hobbling after crashing to the ground in a collision with teammate Mo Mosley.

“A lot of lessons for us,” said Gottlieb. “In some ways, the loss is more disappointing because I know we’re capable; we’re better than this. We’re excited that we have a very tough game next against Arizona State, because that will let us know if we’re ready to respond or not.”

“We’ll be able to bounce back,” said Anigwe. “This group is very special—just being able to learn fast and respond. So the Arizonas—we will give everything to get two wins down there and then move forward to the rest of Pac-12 play. And we will keep growing and learning as a team.”

Cal travels to Arizona next weekend, taking on Arizona State (January 5) and Arizona (January 7).

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