When the Cal women’s basketball was selected for the NCAA Tournament, it came as a bit of a surprise. The team had posted a dismal 6-12 record in the Pac-12 Conference, and chances of selection seemed slim. But the team made it to the tournament as the ninth seed. In the first round, the Bears seemed to justify their selection by defeating LSU, 55-52, sparking hopes of a Cinderella run.
Those hopes were dashed today, as Cal lost to No. 1 seed Baylor, 86-46.
To say that the match was competitive would be an overstatement. The Lady Bears were coming off a humongous 119-30 win over Texas Southern, and if there were any probability of a loss for Baylor, the players would have ignored it.
The first quarter started off well for both sides as they jostled for the lead in the first three minutes. Kristine Anigwe and Asha Thomas got on the scoresheet for Cal, as they were able to give the Bears a slender lead, albeit only for a few moments, over their much-fancied opponents. The Lady Bears, however, responded in a ruthless fashion as they kept Cal on a scoreless run for about four and a half minutes while scoring 9 points of their own to put the score at 15-7 in their favor. The quarter crescendoed with Cal scoring 5 points in response to Baylor’s two, ending at 17-12.
The Lady Bears, however, asserted their dominance in full force during the second quarter, keeping their foot on the gas pedal and darting off to a 19-point lead. Alexis Prince, Beatrice Mompremier, Natalie Chou and Kristy Wallace all contributed, pummeling the Bears from the paint.
At the same time, the Lady Bears tightened their defense and double-teamed Anigwe, Cal’s only threat of the night. Cal was again held to a scoreless run, this time for around five minutes. It proved to be a crucial time for the offense to go missing, as the opponents cruised to what became an unassailable lead. The half ended with Cal at 20, exactly half of Baylor’s score.
Cal didn’t fare much better in the second half, scoring 26 points, with Anigwe bearing the entire offensive load of the team. The forward finished with 20 points, nearly half of the team’s total, and shot 43.8 percent from the floor. Anigwe, as it had been for a large part of the season, lacked support on the offensive end with the second-highest scorer for the team being Courtney Range, who scored 8 points coming off of the bench. Another familiar sight for Cal was its wastefulness with the ball in hand, committing 24 turnovers to Baylor’s 13. The Lady Bears outclassed Cal in every metric possible, from field goal percentage to three-point shooting to assists. The only area in which Cal was better than Baylor was free throw shooting.
The third quarter happened to be Cal’s best for scoring, as it scored 15 points. Anigwe scored 9 points in the quarter, followed by Range, who put up 5 points. The Bears’ best offensive quarter was negated by Baylor’s best offensive quarter, as the Lady Bears put up 25 points in response to Cal’s 15. The match had ended in the first half itself, and if there were any hopes of a miraculous comeback, they were all but brushed away in the third quarter. Heading into the final quarter, Baylor led Cal by 30 points.
The final quarter, actually, the second half in total, was a formality, as it was clear that the home side was heading into the Sweet Sixteen. They had put on a very strong performance against a side that looked lost. None of the Lady Bears scored more points than Anigwe, but three of them were in double digits. A better scoring distribution, coupled with more efficient shooting and a miserly defense, was key to Baylor posting the win.
The Bears can still be enthused by the fact that they made it to the NCAA tournament. Anigwe was able to build on a strong freshman season, and if head coach Lindsay Gottlieb is able to add a reliable second offensive option, Cal can improve in the years to come.
“We are going to keep working and keep growing,” Anigwe said. “I’m going to do everything I can to never feel this way again.”