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Cal Basketball

Cold-shooting Bears Fall to ASU 57-42

January 28, 2018
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Facing another aggressive defense, the No. 23 California Golden Bears had no answers, falling to No. 25 Arizona State 57-42. The Bears notched season lows in points scored and field goal percentage, managing only 15 of 53 attempts (28.3%).

Kristine Anigwe had 15 points and eight rebounds.

“We’re disappointed, because there was a good opportunity here, and we didn’t take advantage of it,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “You can’t win a game scoring 42 points.”

Arizona State’s Courtney Ekmark had 12 points, and Kianna Ibis had 11. But it was the Sun Devil defense that was the story of the game. ASU took away Cal’s inside game, and the Bears could not respond from beyond the arc, hitting only two of 19 attempts (10.5%).

“Credit Arizona State; they’re always tough defensively,” said Gottlieb. “They caused us some problems tonight. We didn’t make enough shots. It was their game plan to make us hit shots, and we went two of 19 from three. I thought most of them were good attempts.”

Cal falls to 15-6, while ASU is at 15-7. Both teams are 6-4 in the Pac-12.

Cal was never in this game.

Arizona State’s defense shut down Cal for nearly seven and a half minutes to open the game, forcing Cal into rushed shots. Even passing the ball in the backcourt became an adventure. The Bears missed their first 11 shots while committing 6 turnovers.

In the meantime, ASU had no problems finding space against the Bears. Five different players scored for the Sun Devils, including five straight points for Robbi Ryan, and ASU built the 14-0 lead with 3:39 to go in the first.

Jaelyn Brown finally pried the lid off the basket at the 2:39 mark, knocking down a jumper in the lane. Kristine Anigwe and CJ West followed with scores inside, pulling Cal with 14-6.

Kianna Ibis responded with a lefty baby hook, closing the quarter with ASU up 16-6.

The second quarter started much the same, with Ibis proving a match up nightmare, getting into the paint at will and knocking down two more shots. Ekmark beat the Cal defense down the floor, and Cal was down 22-6.

Cal became more aggressive and decisive on offense. Anigwe rattled in a jumper, Asha Thomas hit a three, and Kianna Smith hit from just inside the arc. Mikayla Cowling hit a pull up from the elbow, and Thomas drove and found Anigwe. The 11-4 run got Cal within 26-17 and forced an ASU time out.

The Bears forced a shot clock violation, then cashed in on the other end with two foul shots from Smith.

Russell used a high screen to free herself for a runner, and Ibis hit a wide-open from the top of the key, and ASU was back on top 31-19.

Penina Davidson hit a free throw and then a putback to close out the half, with Cal down 33-22.

“The talk at halftime was, ‘We’re going to make threes this half,’” said Gottlieb. “It wasn’t like we had to do 10 different things. I honestly thought we would come back and win the game.”

Cal forced a long heave from ASU at the end of the shot clock to open the third, but the Bears did not secure the rebound. Ekmark made good on the second-chance opportunity. Ryan followed with another jumper, extending the ASU lead to 37-22.

Cowling hit a three, but it was Cal’s only made baskets in seven attempts.

“We never made shots,” said Gottlieb, about her team’s inability to battle back, which has been a hallmark of much of this season. “They’re sitting in a zone, and we couldn’t string together a couple of buckets in a row.”

Ryan continued to show off her old-school game, using solid handles and her teammates’ screen to get to her spots, knocking down a jumper before the defense could converge.

“They’re good,” said Gottlieb of ASU. “They’re not going to just relinquish the lead; they hit shot.”

Cal, on the other hand, could not find high-percentage shots, and the Bears managed only two baskets and six points in the third, falling behind 44-28 entering the fourth.

Jaelyn Brown gave Cal a lift with consecutive baskets halfway through the fourth, but the Bears never could make much headway the well-prepared and determined Sun Devils.

“Got to move on and take advantage of the opportunities and hopefully learn from it,” said Gottlieb. “I think we can use this to motivate us to have a good weekend next weekend.”

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