New Year brings first loss for No. 21 Cal women’s basketball

Zainab Ali/File
Zainab Ali/File

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With 29 seconds left in the first overtime, Courtney Range steals the ball from the Sun Devils. Asha Thomas is subsequently found downcourt and fouled, getting an opportunity to recover a precious lead for the Bears in order to preserve their undefeated record. She misses the first shot but composes herself and makes the second. Tying the game at 60, she forces it into yet another overtime.

The first game of 2017 for the No. 21 Cal women’s basketball team (13-1, 1-1) against No. 18 Arizona State (10-3, 1-1) was also the first of another kind: the first time the Bears have lost a game this season, falling to the Sun Devils, 72-62.

The Bears went down 7-0 at the start of the first quarter, only one minute and 27 seconds into the game. The deficit came after two layups and a three-pointer were scored by ASU after multiple turnovers from Cal. The Bears, however, did not stay scoreless for long, putting up their first points of the game almost two minutes in with a layup from Mikayla Cowling.

Cal’s scoring woes continued throughout the first 10 minutes, ultimately ending the quarter down 21-13. The Bears struggled heavily because of turnovers and fouls — accruing seven turnovers and six fouls in the course of the quarter. And their accuracy from beyond the arc, a skill that they generally rely on offensively, was abysmal. As a team, they went 0-2 from three-point range.

The Sun Devils took control once again in the second quarter, putting up a quick layup to increase their lead. Cal answered back immediately with its first three-pointer of the game from Courtney Range, which served as a prelude to the increased scoring that it would do throughout the quarter.

Clawing their way back, the Bears were able to close out the first half down 29-27 and force the Sun Devils to go scoreless for the last two minutes and 35 seconds. The scoring push was led by Penina Davidson and Range, who scored seven and five points in the quarter, respectively. Largely inactive in the whole first half was Kristine Anigwe, who scored just two points and grabbed just one rebound over the course of the first 20 minutes. Cal, generally dominant in the paint, was outscored down low, 22-14.

But it was only a matter of time before Anigwe found her stride again. She was dominant in the third quarter, scoring four points and grabbing three rebounds. The Bears as a whole, however, continued to face difficulties offensively, going scoreless in the middle of the quarter for a little over two and a half minutes. Cal was eventually able to take its first lead of the game with a little less than two minutes left in the third quarter but ultimately ended it down 45-42.

The fourth quarter proved to be an exciting culmination of a game that was hard-fought by both teams. Tied at 55 with a little less than three minutes to go, both teams remained scoreless through the end of the game to force it into overtime. The Bears outscored the Sun Devils 13-10 in the quarter, but it was not enough to pull them out of the eight-point hole that they had dug for themselves in the first quarter.

Arizona broke the tie with a free throw to put it up by one with 3:27 remaining in the extra period. The contest, however, was not over yet, with both teams trading baskets for the remainder of the overtime period. Ultimately, thanks to a free throw made by Thomas, the score remained deadlocked at 60 as the time ran out and forced another overtime period.

The second overtime period proved tougher for the Bears. Going scoreless for nearly the entire five minutes, Cal could not find success on offense. Meanwhile, Arizona State continued to put up points, scoring 12 in the period to ultimately defeat the Bears, 72-62.

Sophie Goethals covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]