When the Bears last faced its ranked opponent in No. 4 Duke, the Blue Devils handed them their first and only loss of the season so far. At home on Friday night, No. 8 Cal ensured it will not fall to another top-25 team.
The Cal women’s basketball team defeated No. 19 Kansas in Haas Pavilion, 88-79, putting the Bears’ record at 9-1 — their best start since the 1992-1993 season.
Early on in the game, the Bears dropped into an early game funk — a pattern that has been prevalent lately this season — against the fast-paced Jayhawks. Just a minute and a half into the contest, courtesy of two impressive 3-point shots from Kansas’s Natalie Knight, Cal fell behind 8-4.
Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb then called a time-out to settle things down. It was the perfect timing for the Bears to bounce back..
“I just kept telling the girls to weather the storm,” senior guard Layshia Clarendon said. “They’re not going to go away, and it was going to be a long game.”
Cal sparked on a 11-0 run, thanks to its Cal’s speedy guards driving into the paint and the bigs working off the glass. Junior guard Afure Jemerigbe was a critical factor in the spark, nailing a jumper from downtown and even grabbing two offensive boards.
Despite sporting a 15-8 lead at the 15-minute mark, Cal spent most of the first half pushing away a resilient Kansas team gnawing to close down the lead. Defense looked optional as both teams scored easily and efficiently with little pressure.
In the first frame, the Bears and the Jayhawks shot 51.4% and 50.0% respectively.
In the second half, Cal asserted its dominance over Kansas thanks to its advantage in controlling the paint and creating second-chance opportunities. The Bears scored 34 points inside the paint and 11 second-chance points in the second half. The Jayhawks’ stats paled to Cal’s with just 14 points from the paint and only 2 second-chance points.
But Kansas hung in the game until the end of the second half. With the lead cut down to two with three minutes left in the half, Clarendon scored five points off fast-paced plays in the final few minutes After a 16-point first half, Clarendon finished the game with 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting and 2-for-4 from beyond the three-point arc.
“When the game is on the line and when big-time games are here,” Gottlieb said, “there’s not a guard better than Layshia at making big shots.”
Cal’s towering trio of Caldwell, Gennifer Brandon, and Reshanda Gray all scored in double digits and notched 23 of Cal’s 40 rebounds. With nothing to slow down the self-proclaimed swagger of the “best post in the west coast,” the Bears locked up another home win in convincing 88-79 fashion.
“We are just very fortunate to have post players that have tremendous instincts to the ball,” Gottlieb said. “They’re relentless and it’s really just a great kind of staple of our team.”
The Bears will return to action after Christmas at Haas Pavilion, slated to face against George Washington University on Dec. 28.
Vincent Tzeng covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]