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Cal Basketball

Cal Wins Wire to Wire over Utah, 84-73

February 11, 2018
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The California Golden Bears found their lost offense this weekend.

Cal rode an explosive 30-point first quarter and held off Utah, 84-73. The Bears completed the much-needed weekend sweep, after beating Colorado on Friday.

“I’m really proud of this weekend for a lot of reasons,” said Gottlieb. “Pac-12 sweeps are not easy to come by. Coming off last weekend, this team locked in and focused on doing the right things, which aren’t the easy things, in terms of getting our mindset where it needs to be. And it’s really nice as a coach when it pays off for [the players]. I like to see them have fun and enjoy it. It was a good weekend offensive for our team. We have a really balanced team, and we have a good shooting team.”

Juniors Asha Thomas and Kristine Anigwe each had 22 points.

“We rely on them so much,” said Gottlieb of Thomas and Anigwe. “They make it look a lot easier than it is. Their leadership was tremendous, and they made big plays when they need to. To have a point guard and a post that you can rely on in crunch time is really nice thing for a coach.”

Cal hit 11 of 14 shots in the first period and ran out to a 30-19 lead. Cal was able to maintain a comfortable lead through much of the game, avoiding the lulls that have plagued them throughout this season, even when Anigwe had to sit due to foul trouble. Cal led the whole game.

“It was a great team effort,” said Gottlieb. “When Kristine was in foul trouble, other people made big plays too.”

Cal shot 57% from the field (32 of 56); Anigwe was nine of 12 and Thomas hit seven of 10. The Bears also continued the recent proficiency from the line, as Anigwe and Thomas combined to be perfect on 10 attempts.

Cal also hit five threes, each more timely than the next, while holding Utah to four from beyond the arc (on 19 attempts).

Mikayla Cowling had a team-high eight assists, and fellow senior Penina Davidson grabbed seven rebounds as Cal had a 34-27 advantage on the glass.

Kianna Smith played 38 minutes and hit two threes, while Jaelyn Brown had nine points, all in the first half, to help Cal run out to the insurmountable lead.

Megan Huff scored 27 to keep Utah afloat throughout the game. Erika Bean had a game-high 11 assists. Post Emily Potter scored only six points before fouling out.

Tori Williams had 13 points, including three treys in the fourth as Utah pulled within six.

But on this day, with the Bears growing in confidence, Cal made the plays necessary to thwart every possibility of a Ute upset.

With the weekend sweep, Cal is now at 17-8 and 8-6, tied for fifth place in the Pac-12. Utah is 15-8 (6-8 Pac-12). Beyond the wins, the Bears looked engaged and decisive and confident on offense, all against teams that have traditionally given Cal a lot of trouble.

“Collectively, we’ve just all come together,” said Anigwe. “We’re just playing at a different level right now.”

 

 

Cal opened the game hitting seven of eight shots (87.5%).

The Cal lead stretched to 12-4 on two free throws from Anigwe, after she was fouled by Potter. It was Potter’s second personal foul, sending her to the bench.

With both teams committed to playing fast, the pace was frantic, leading to hurried passes and some sloppy play.

Junior Asha Thomas hit her second three and then hit two free throws, stretching Cal’s lead to 17-6.

“People were knocking down shots, getting good looks, making the extra passes,” said Thomas.

Utah scored on their next five possessions, exploiting Cal’s poor transition defense for breakaway layups.

After a Bear time out, Mikayla Cowling found CJ West underneath for a score. Kianna Smith hit a three from the top of the key, and Jaelyn Brown gave the Utes a taste of their own medicine, streaking down the floor for a pull up off the glass, and Cal was back up 28-16.

Cowling found Anigwe down low for her fifth assist, and Cal had their highest scoring quarter of the season, leading 30-19 after 10 minutes.

Anigwe scored to open the second, and Brown continued her hot shooting in recent games, hitting a twisting layup.

Consecutive Bear turnovers slowed down the Cal offense for the next several minutes, coinciding with Anigwe resting on the bench. But Cal played solid defense, limiting Utah to one basket, by Tilar Clark.

Anigwe returned to score four quick points, giving Cal the 38-21 bulge. 

Alayshia Styles made two free-throws, and all eight Bears who have hit the court were in the scoring column. Cal’s lead stretched to 47-27 after a three by Brown and another basket by Anigwe.

Utah closed the half with a 5-0 run, including a three point play by Daneesha Provo; Anigwe picked up her second foul on the play.

Cal enter halftime up 47-32.

Mikayla Cowling hit a jumper from the free throw line to open the third.

Emily Potter hit a putback, and Anigwe hit one of her own on the other end. But Anigwe immediately picked up her third personal foul and went to the bench.

Utah took advantage, scoring three quick baskets. Cal kept pace with a three from Kianna Smith and a floater from Thomas.

Two more baskets by Megan Huff closed the gap to 56-44.

Anigwe returned but lasted one possession before getting called for her fourth foul.

Clark’s three-point play got the game to within 60-49.

After a score by Smith, West picked up her fourth foul, and the Bears were forced to play small.

Huff continued her stellar afternoon, hitting a three and pulling the Utes with 62-52.

A putback by Penina Davidson helped keep Cal ahead 66-54, entering the fourth period.

Huff’s three-point play got Utah within single digits, 66-57, at the 8:37 mark, but Thomas settled the Bears with two midrange jumpers.

Davidson stepped up on both ends, battling hard inside against Potter on defense, and earning Cal extra possessions on the offensive glass. Alayshia Styles also gave Cal important minutes.

Tori Williams scored five consecutive points to whittle the lead to 72-64.

Anigwe returned to score two consecutive baskets inside, and Cal was up 74-64, with 3:25 to play.

Anigwe on her thoughts while sitting out with foul trouble: “Just to be dominant when I get back in the game. I have complete confidence in Nina, CJ, Bird [Styles]. They know how to play without me on the court. So it was just really comforting.”

But Williams hit another three, and it was nervous time. After Thomas sank a jumper, Williams hit her third three of the quarter, and it was a two-possession game, 76-70, with 2:15 to play.

Cal’s defense held on consecutive possessions, and Cowling hit a long two, giving Cal a little breathing room.

Huff split free-throws, and Cal began to milk the clock, and Utah was forced to foul, sending Thomas to the line. With 50.7 seconds to play, the junior point guard sank both, and Cal had the 80-71 lead.

Thomas went to line once more, and she was again perfect on both, and the Bears had survived the Utah threat.

“Our mentality of being locked in each possession, that was what we worked on this week,” said Asha Thomas. “We want to carry that on for the rest of the season.”

The Bears now look forward to the home and home matchups with Stanford.

“Momentum is a crazy thing,” said Gottlieb. “We said that we wanted it to be our February, our stretch run. Stanford is really good, playing arguably the best in the conference right now. But that’s a challenge for us to get these wins going into that, and then take the next step against a team that’s in from of us, that happens to be our Bay Area rival.”

 

 

 

NOTES and QUOTES:

·      Gottlieb shared she provided some extra motivation to improve Anigwe’s performance from the line: “I beat Kristine in a free-throw contest, and she felt like then she had to step up and came in for some extra shots,” said Kristine. “And that was the magic trick. True story.”

·      On Cal’s performance on the glass: “We were in Beast Mode. I told them they needed to look at this game like it was a play-off game. We have physical players, and they take it on themselves when there are good posts on the other team, like Potter and Huff. And they just recommitted to doing what we need to do.”

·      Thomas is now at 88.6% from the line this season, the top mark in the Pac-12.

·      2507 attended the game.

 

 

 

 

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