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Cal Basketball

Bears Cage Wildcats, 63-39

January 26, 2018
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The No. 23 California Golden Bears parlayed a dominant 19-3 second quarter to a 63-39 win over the Arizona Wildcats. Cal had a balanced attack, led by 12 points each from Asha Thomas and Kristine Anigwe.

Anigwe also had 15 rebounds as the Bears had a 51-30 advantage on the glass.

Cal played without senior starter Mikayla Cowling, who sat out the game with a concussion incurred last Sunday against USC.

"It was a workmanlike, gritty win," said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "We could have been better on the offensive end, but playing without Mikayla, everyone stepped up their energy a little bit more. It's a good sign when we can play without a key key person and get a win."

Penina Davidson had 10 points, and Kianna Thomas had nine. Cal’s bench played well, outscoring Arizona 16-9, led by six from Alaysia Styles; CJ West had seven rebounds, and Mo Mosley had three assists.

Sam Thomas had 11 points for Arizona, and Destiny Graham contributed 10. Leading scorer JaLea Bennett (15.1 ppg) was held scoreless in 18 minutes. The 39 points and 25% shooting are the lowest outputs of the season for the Wildcats.

"We did a better job of knowing the scouting report," said Gottlieb. "[Bennett] is a really good player, and I told the team a million times, she looks like an All American in transition. So we wanted to make her play in the half court."

Arizona managed only two fastbreak points.

Cal improved to 15-5 (6-3 in Pac-12). With half the conference schedule completed, the Bears sit in fourth (tied with Oregon State).

 

 

Jaelyn Brown got the start in place of Cowling. The sophomore opened the scoring, knocking down a jumper from the free throw line.

Kristine Anigwe played tough defense, blocking two shots and creating a steal, which the Bears converted into a short jumper from Kianna Smith on the other end. After a basket from Penina Davidson, Smith hit a three from the wing, stretching the Cal lead to 9-0 and forcing an Arizona time out, with five minutes gone in the first.

"I thought [Anigwe] dominated the first half as much as she has in many games, but on the defensive end," said Gottlieb. "Arizona couldn't score in the paint."

"I was just trying to get stops," said Anigwe. "Everyone knows we can score, but on the defense side, it's suspect. But I think today we proved to the conference that we are a team that can really stop players."

Cal would end the game out-scoring Arizona 42-6 in the paint.

Lucia Alonso hit a three, and Sam Thomas took over the game for the Wildcats. The freshman hit consecutive threes and another long jumper against the Cal zone, and Arizona was within 15-11.

The Bears continued to get contributions throughout the line-up, with a basket from Mo Mosley with two free throws from Alaysia Styles keeping Cal ahead.

A three from Arizona’s Marlee Kyles closed the first period. Four treys kept the Wildcats in the game, trailing 19-14.

Kristine Anigwe, held scoreless in the first, scored twice down low to open the second. Davidson followed with another hoop in the paint, and then Thomas hit from beyond the arc. The 9-0 run staked Cal to a 28-14 lead.

Arizona broke the string with three point play from Kat Wright. It turned out to be the Wildcats’ only points of the quarter.

Anigwe was everywhere on the court, inhaling every defensive board. Then on the offensive end, the junior dove on the court to grab the loose ball, and while on her back, lofted a pass to Smith, who hit the jumper. Consecutive putbacks by Styles and Mosley, and another score by Anigwe, put Cal up 38-17 at the half.

The Bears, who have struggled in the second quarter at times this year, pounded the Wildcats 19-3 in the period. Cal held Arizona to 1 of 13 shooting (7.7%), include 0 for 4 from distance.

The Bears had no turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game.

Both teams struggled to score in the first two minutes of the third, with Cal committing three quick turnovers.

Davidson hit a fastbreak basket, but Arizona responded with five quick points, edging within 40-22.

Arizona began to push the pace, getting down the court and driving at the hoop before Cal could set its defense. The Wildcats also began to crash the boards, to good effect. Halfway through the third, Arizona had 10 shot attempts (to Cal’s 4); fortunately for the Bears, Arizona only hit two.

Cal looked indecisive, which resulted in bad passes and charges on drives. Kyles hit two free throws to whittle the lead to 44-29.

Cal re-grouped, closing the quarter with a 6-0 run. Styles, who had just missed a gimme on the previous possession, skied for a rebound and putback. Anigwe scored down low, and then Thomas beat the clock with a drive, earning a foul and two free-throws. The Pac-12’s top shooter from the line hit both, and the Bears were up 50-29 with 10 minutes to play.

"I think I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do," said Thomas. "Really. I'm putting more pressure on myself to make the play for my team. When it's time for a bucket or a stop, I just tell myself, 'Lock in.'"

Davidson hit two layups as Cal maintained the 20-point advantage through the first five minutes of the fourth.

With the game in hand, the Bears substituted liberally, with Chen Yue entering the game with 3:30 to play. The little-used reserve got a huge ovation when she scored on the left block, earning Cal the 61-37 lead. Another basket by CJ West closed the Cal scoring.

"Conference regular season is the truest test of how good a team is," said Gottlieb. "Because you have to win when people are injured or in foul trouble. And I think our depth is legit. I expect people to come in and really contribute."

Gottlieb was pleased with Cal's defense but recognized that the offense has room to grow.

"We can finish better, and to flow better," said Gottlieb. "Just our mindset, about when it's your time to make a play and when it's time to move the ball. We need to do it at a crisp level, and we will be sharper."

Up next: Cal hosts No. 25 Arizona State on Sunday, January 28, at 3pm. The Bears lost 80-71 in Tempe earlier this month.

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