With less than three minutes left in their contest against No. 20 Colorado, the No. 7 Cal women’s basketball team looked well on their way to their second Pac-12 victory with a 51-43 lead.
However, poor free throwing shooting and a sudden 6-0 run by the Buffs put the Bears at risk of throwing the contest away
Guard Layshia Clarendon stepped up to the foul line with a slim 51-49 lead but failed to make both. However, senior Talia Caldwell made a critical play by tying up a Colorado rebounder.
The possession arrow gave the ball back to Cal, and the referee awarded another free throw opportunity to Clarendon. She was able to make one, and the Bears (12-1, 2-0 in the Pac-12) afterward prevented a Colorado three-pointer to escape Boulder, Colo. with a 53-49 victory.
“We know that for us, we’re a physical team,” coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We’re going to get to the line a lot. We’ve got to knock them down. But fortunately, we were able to get away with the win regardless of that.”
Guard Brittany Boyd scored 15 points in the contest, leading the Bears to their sixth straight victory following their only loss of the season against No. 3 Duke.
The Bears needed Boyd’s leadership and poise in the contest, especially after the team found itself tied at halftime at 24-24 — unfamiliar territory for a team off to its best start in school history.
“We anticipated this mountain trip would be really tough,” Gottlieb said. “Colorado’s an excellent team — legitimate top 20 team, very, very talented, and we knew it was going to be a battle.”
After halftime, Cal played with a little more urgency, pushing the lead to eight, the highest of the game, with three minutes remaining. The Bears’ defense forced the Buffs into a major scoring drought in the second half in which the team hit only two of 17 field goal attempts that lasted for 11 minutes and 46 seconds.
Not to be outdone, the Colorado defense was just as solid, keeping the match competitive by holding the Bears to a 35.8 shooting percentage.
Then Buffaloes guard Chucky Jeffery, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half, helped lead her team into a comeback. As the Buffs crawled back into contention, Cal continued to struggle from the charity stripe.
But in the end, the Bear’s rebounding bailed the team out. Forward Gennifer Brandon did not make a single point in the game but made her impact with a key rebound off a missed free throw by Boyd in the final moments of the game. The junior finished with 11 rebounds and helped Cal outrebound the Colorado, 43-34.
“I think rebounding is the key to our team,” guard Brittany Boyd said. “I just think we were dialed in, focused and didn’t want to lose.”
The Bears return to Berkeley for arguably the biggest game of the season against No. 5 Stanford on Tuesday.
Austin Crochetiere covers women’s basketball. Contact him at email@example.com