At a time when the Cal women’s basketball team needed a spark on offense against Colorado, it was up to freshman Brittany Boyd to bring the electricity.
Down 51-41 with 11 minutes left in Thursday’s game, the point guard made back-to-back scores and a momentum-turning steal in a 40-second span, breathing life into the out-of-funk Bears. Cal went on a 23-4 run afterwards to defeat the Buffaloes, 68-55.
The victory at the Coors Event Center at Boulder, Colo., avenged the Bears’ season-ending loss to Colorado last year in the second round of the WNIT.
“I am very, very proud of our defensive effort down the stretch and just our ability to suck it up and say, ‘We can win from behind. We can win in altitude. We can win on the road,'” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said.
But the game, at one point, seemed to be a lock for a Cal win. Once upon a time at the 12:30 mark of the first half, the Bears (12-5, 3-2 in the Pac-12) held a 10-point lead.
But a Buffaloes (13-2, 2-2) had a scoring stampede led by guard Chucky Jeffery, and the pendulum swung the other way by the end of the first half, with Colorado leading 37-30. It was not until Boyd’s jolt midway through the second half that Cal regained its lost momentum, ultimately culminating in a victory and neatly carving out a three-act play within the basketball game.
The game started in the hands of the Cal’s fearsome four at the post, manufacturing points by the rim with their superior size. Forward Gennifer Brandon got off to a great start, producing six of her 17 points early to buoy the Bears to a comfortable early 11-point lead.
But the sharpshooting Jeffery then started hitting her shots.
After nailing two successive shots and assisting teammate Brittany Wilson for a 3-pointer, Jeffery and the Buffaloes closed the gap to five with 11:50 remaining in the first half. As Colorado nailed five shots beyond the arc in the first half, the Buffaloes went on a 13-3 run, turning the tables against Cal.
The start of the second half was just a continuation of Colorado’s mile-high shooting streak, as Jeffery scored a 3-pointer right off the bat in the first possession. By the 11-minute mark, when Colorado’s run ended, Jeffery led both teams with 19 points. But her presence on the court began to decrease as Cal shifted its defense to a zone, not giving her any easy looks for the remainder of the game.
But as Jeffery’s shot waned, guard Layshia Clarendon’s waxed.
The junior guard was quiet in the first half, scoring only six points in the period after being shut down by the Buffaloes’ perimeter defense. But she came alive in the second half, most notably making two consecutive shots to cut the score to 51-49 with nine minutes left. She finished with a team-high 18 points, 10 coming in that late push.
“I think (the comeback) all started defensively,” Clarendon said. “When you get stops, there is less pressure to score offensively. Then we were like, ‘Okay, take your time and get good shots.'”
After three minutes of scoring back and forth, the Bears finally tied and took the lead with 5:47 left on the clock as Brandon made a 3-point play after being fouled on a successful layup. Cal never looked back, cruising to a 12-0 run for the remainder of the game.