It only took one drive for the Cal women’s basketball team to jump ahead.
Within 30 seconds of the opening tipoff in Saturday’s matinee against Oregon, sophomore Lindsay Sherbert sank a shot from beyond the arc to give her team a 3-0 advantage. Throughout the rest of their 90-67 rout of the Ducks, the Bears never once relinquished that lead.
But Sherbert’s shot wasn’t the one that propelled Cal’s second-straight conference victory.
Halfway through the first period, Cal (11-5, 2-2 in the Pac-12) held a satisfying but not quite comfortable 19-9 lead in Haas Pavilion. Sudden rebounding spurts by Gennifer Brandon and Talia Caldwell saw the Bears through the majority of their points thus far. But Oregon’s famous “run-and-gun” drives were equally deadly, and the contest quickly boiled down the Ducks’ speed versus Cal’s boards.
“(The players) were committed to stopping Oregon’s signature run-and-gun style, and also letting people know that we have a style, too, that’s hard to stop,” coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “As much as Oregon likes to run, we like to rebound.”
Then Mikayla Lyles entered the fray.
With the score straddling a 10-point margin, Lyles nabbed an assist from Boyd just beyond the arc and sent it sailing through the net, boosting the score to 22-9 to Cal.
And she did it again less than a minute later, shooting her team up by another three points.
“Having depth … means there are people who want to play more, but we have people who are committed to doing what we need to do for the team to win,” Gottlieb said. “And there is nobody who buys into that more (than Lyles).”
A few minutes later Lyles took her third 3-pointer of the day. When the halftime buzzer sounded, she had tacked up four 3-pointers and Cal rushed off the court with a 54-35 lead.
But Cal sputtered at the onset of the second half, holding the opponent down but doing nothing spectacular to further itself. The Ducks (9-7, 1-3) exploited their opponents’ sluggishness and launched a scoring spree that left the Bears without a field goal for the first five minutes of the period.
Then the teams entered the eye of the hurricane. On one side of the storm, already past, the Ducks had steadily whittled down Cal’s lead and kept it hovering around 15 points. But Cal was about to wreak havoc on the other side of the storm.
With less than seven minutes left on the clock, Brandon and freshman Reshanda Gray nailed a combined three layups that shot Cal up, 78-55, to its largest lead of the game. The sudden run left Oregon so winded that it needed a timeout to regroup.
“There doesn’t have to be one person that we have to wait (for),” Gottlieb said. “It gives us a dynamic where it makes us tougher to guard, because you can’t focus on one person.”
For the next five minutes Cal dominated the court on a 14-point run. By the time the Ducks ended their drought with a run-and-gun 3-pointer, Cal had eased up on its theatrics to stave off any desperate, last-ditch efforts from the opponent.
The victory set Cal with an even conference record and, combined with Thursday’s win against Oregon State, revived the team after a two-game sweep in Los Angeles last weekend.
“In shocking news, winning is a lot more fun, it’s easier to just enjoy it,” Gottlieb said.