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Cal Basketball

Bears Beat Huskies, 69-60

January 12, 2018
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The No. 24 California Golden Bears (12-4, 3-2 Pac-12) pulled away in the fourth quarter to earn a hard fought win over Washington, 69-60.  Cal dominated inside, led by their post tandem Kristine Anigwe (26 points, 11 rebounds) and Penina Davidson (18 points, nine rebounds).

“I’m really proud of this team and the win,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We talked a lot this week about energy and pride. I thought we played with a tone of together, a lot of mental and physical toughness. I thought our veteran posts were beasts inside; our guards distributed the ball really well.” 

Mikayla Cowling, who had been hot offensively of late, scored only two points as the Bears looked to get the ball down low. Cowling had a career-high 11 assists as the Bears had 24 assists on 28 baskets.

Asha Thomas returned from a missed game (concussion protocol) to score 14 and hand out eight assists. The junior point guard was crucial at the end of the game, helping Cal execute plays and keeping the Huskies at bay.

Washington, in a midst of a rebuilding year, rallied time and again throughout the game. Amber Melgoza had 15 points. Hannah Johnson and Mai-Loni Henson each had 13, keeping the Huskies afloat with timely threes (a combined six of nine from beyond the arc).

Cal improved to 12-4, 3-2 Pac-12, and Washington  6-10, 0-5.

Kristine Anigwe scored Cal’s first three baskets of the game, as the Bears looked for the junior inside, even when double-teamed. Asha Thomas hit a three, and Cal ran out to the early 9-2 lead.

Washington, in the meantime, struggled on offense, coughing up four quick turnovers.

After a Husky time-out, UW got untracked, battling hard on the glass and making good on their second chances, closing to within 14-10 on Mai-Loni Henson’s three.

Cal continued to push its advantage inside, with four consecutive scores in the paint. CJ West’s layup pushed the lead to 22-11, with 3:15 left in the first quarter.

UW’s pressure bothered Cal and the Bears were held scoreless for the next three minutes. Anigwe’s score inside broke the drought, and Cal was up 24-15 entering the second period.

Asha Thomas pushed the ball and found Anigwe and Penina Davidson for baskets. The Bears had 11 assists on their first 13 baskets.

But the Bears also committed a couple throwaways and Washington kept pace with offensive rebounds, despite hitting only 30% of their shots.

Washington packed the paint and took away the inside and dared Cal to beat them from distance. The Bears went cold from the field, missing 10 consecutive shots, include six threes.

“Their game plan the entire game was to pressure on the perimeter and fluster us,” said Gottlieb. “We couldn’t get it to where we want to go.”

A three by Alexis Griggsby closed the lead to 28-23 halfway through the quarter.

A minute later, the lead was down to 29-25, and Anigwe was on the bench with her 3rd foul.

Another offensive rebound and putback by UW tied the game at 29.

Jaelyn Brown tough bank shot broke the tie, and Cal had the slim lead 31-29 at halftime. The same team that hit eight of their first 10 shots managed only three of 16 (18.8%) in the second quarter.

Washington opened the third with a three from Hannah Jump and took its first lead of the game. Another three, this one by Jenna Moser, extended the UW lead to 37-33.

Cal battled back using early offense to get good looks inside. Anigwe scored twice, followed by two baskets for Davidson, the second resulting in a three-point play. Another basket and two free throws from Anigwe, and Cal was back on top 44-37 at the 5:30 mark in the third.

“They had no answer for [Anigwe and Davidson],” said Gottlieb.

Two free throws from Kianna Smith and another Anigwe basket completed the 15-3 run.

But Washington was undeterred, coming right back with consecutive threes. Amber Melgoza hit two free-throws, and suddenly, the game was knotted at 48, with a minute to go.

After the two teams traded turnovers, Mikayla Cowling hit a baseline jumper. It was the senior’s first points of the game, giving Cal the 50-48 edge after three.

Gottlieb pointed out Cowling’s value in relieving the defensive pressure and moving the ball.

“Mikayla is such an incredible player, because you can put her in different spots and trust that she’s going to make the play. Against Arizona we needed her to hit threes; that’s not what we needed her to do today. We only turned the ball over 12 times against that team that creates the most turnovers in the conference.”

Both teams upped their intensity and physicality to open the fourth, and neither side could get a clean look for the first two minutes. Penina Davidson broke free, scoring consecutive baskets down low, the second on a pretty bounce pass through a crowded lane by Brown. With 7:30 to go, Cal was up 54-48.

Amber Melgoza scored for UW on a tough drive, and Anigwe responded with another basket inside.

Kierra Collier posted up Asha Thomas for a score, and Thomas retaliated on the other end with a three and two free-throws, keeping the Bears ahead 61-55, with 3:30 left.

The Bears patiently stretched the defense with passing until finding Davidson underneath. But Washington immediate shaved the lead to 53-58 with a three from Hannah Johnson.

With two minutes left, Washington called time to put on the press. Cal burned a time

After another patient possession, the Bears found Thomas at the top of the key. With the shot clock running low, the Cal point guard knocked down the three, earning Cal the 66-58 lead, with 1:27 left. On the ensuing two Cal possession, Thomas hit a free-throw and then found Anigwe underneath to ice the game.

“I love that girl,” said Davidson of Thomas. “Those threes at the end, you could tell she was going to make it because she was so locked in. We’re always confident that she would bring it when we need it.”

“This is something we can build off of,” said Gottlieb. “The fact that we did not perform how we wanted in Arizona, and they came back, even off of a win in the second game, and said, ‘We need to be better.’”

“We were locked in from Arizona,” said Davidson. “We had some pretty nasty things to watch, and then we were locked in the whole time. Today, when we hit adversity, we just kept going.”

The Bears now go for the weekend sweep, hosting Washington State on Sunday, January 14, at 1pm.

 

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