The second half was utter pandemonium.
Haas Pavilion was electrifying on Sunday as the Cal women’s basketball team fought through a nail-biter against Washington State. Since the onset of the second half, the Cougars held the Bears’ precarious lead to around 10 points, and a quick spree suddenly tied the game, 44-44, with a little over eight minutes left in the half.
From then on, the contest became a gladiatorial battle to the death, and both home team and visitor clawed through eight lead changes before Cal scraped out a 60-55 triumph.
“I’ll take it either way,” junior guard Layshia Clarendon said. “Of course I’d want to be up 15 and dribble the last 30 seconds out, but honestly, I’ll take it either way.”
The entire game was fast and physical, an abrupt change of pace from Thursday’s second-half blowout against Washington. Cal (15-5, 6-2 in the Pac-12) rose to second in the conference after USC fell to Washington in overtime on Saturday, and the Bears were in the midst of a five-game winning streak.
But the Cougars (9-10, 3-4) played beyond their mediocre record, giving the Bears a challenge unforeseen since the team was swept by UCLA and USC on its Los Angeles road trip at the end of December.
“We had the game about four weeks ago at UCLA that was eerily similar, the exact same score reversed,” head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said of the similarities between the Washington State and UCLA games.
The Bears addressed the problems that catalyzed the UCLA loss, such as maintaining control on fast drives and beefing up subpar shooting percentages.
In 40 minutes, the Cougars tested all that hard work. Both teams played sloppy offense and hands-up defense, and they racked up a combined 31 turnovers and 36 fouls.
Cal’s own Brittany Boyd, in particular, received a technical foul for taunting an opponent after making a shot.
The true freshman was playing for a double-double when she sank a basket from beneath the net, turned around and delivered a fast salute in front of a Washington State athlete.
It’s wasn’t Boyd’s only crazy antic. A little after the 44-44 tie, the Berkeley native reentered the game, nabbed the ball and lost her shoe. But that didn’t stop her from playing with frenetic energy for roughly another minute before a timeout was called and Boyd regained her shoe. She totaled nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“The shoe thing, it added a funny moment,” Gottlieb said. “Only funny because we won. I think her consistency and her ability to control the game and affect the game is huge.”
Every mishap and every point added to the pressure. As the clock neared one minute, Gennifer Brandon completed a three-point play to change the lead for the final time, 56-53 to Cal. In a last-ditch effort Washington State brought the game to a one-point contest as the clock ticked down.
But when the final buzzer sounded, Cal was in possession of both the ball and the winning score.