Cal women’s basketball team sports #BlackLivesMatter shirts in 58-56 loss to Long Beach State

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When a top-25 ranked team loses to an underdog like Long Beach State, it’s a big story; the 49ers have not beat a ranked opponent since their 2005-06 season. The No. 17 Cal women’s basketball team (7-2) lost a game in overtime that they should have been able to take handily. A tough 58-56 loss, however, was not talked about after the game. It’s not what made the news.

Prior to the game, the team walked out in shirts that displayed a variety of names on the front and had #BlackLivesMatter on the back. These shirts were clearly handmade and weren’t planned. The team had announced they would be wearing shirts with “I Can’t Breathe” written on them at next week’s home game against No. 10 Louisville, however, after the team got out of warm-ups yesterday, they saw what Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb described in a statement as “images from our campus that were disturbing.” The pictures that were circulating inspired the team to create their own shirts a week early. They also held their hands up during the national anthem, a symbol many athletes have used prior to games.

The Bears are one of the first women’s teams to show their support for the movement that has inspired several protests in Berkeley, joining the likes of several NFL players and NBA players and teams like the Los Angeles Lakers. The Notre Dame women’s basketball team showed their support for the movement earlier on Saturday. The importance of this decision can be seen from the fact that the only post game comments came in a statement from Gottlieb.

“As student-athletes at Cal, our young women have a voice and a platform, and they chose to use it today,” Gottlieb said. “They want to be part of a solution, and they took the steps that were in their power today.”

Showing their support for a movement which many students have gotten behind, the team’s decision reflects the feelings of a campus and shows what the spirit of Berkeley is truly about. Cal pride reached all the way down to Long Beach this past weekend.

“We can talk about X’s and O’s all day, but in reality there are bigger life issues, and the moral consciousness of our players is something I’m proud of,” Gottlieb said. “I don’t tell them what to think, but I do encourage them to think.”

While the players’ decision and performance before the game was something that should be praised, their performance on the court was far from expectations. Despite senior guard Brittany Boyd’s near triple-double performance, which would have been her third of the year, Cal was not able to score enough points to separate themselves from the 49ers.

The Bears’ top scorer coming into the game, senior forward Reshanda Gray, who averaged 21.1 points per game prior to the game, was ejected from the game with 1:44 left in the first half. She was forced to leave after an offensive foul was ruled flagrant after over eight minutes of discussion by the referees. Cal was already missing fellow starter, sophomore forward Courtney Range, who was out with a sprained knee.

In the first half, Long Beach State (8-1) went on a 21-0 run in the middle of the first half, but the Bears did come back in the second half and stayed within two scores most of the game. Going into overtime tied 50-50, the 49ers had control throughout the five minute period. A last-minute buzzer-beater by Boyd, which would have given the Bears the win, was ruled to be shot after time had expired.

It was a hard-fought game with an unfortunate outcome. But this loss won’t be what is remembered from Saturday.

“I’m a basketball coach, and I’m competitive and winning is important,” Gottlieb said. “Our standards at Cal are high, and of course losing this game is disappointing. That said, however, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of these players or our whole team and staff.”

Alaina Getzenberg covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]