A drained three that was good right from the release was the big “welcome back” to junior guard Asha Thomas that Cal desperately needed. After losing Thomas to injury in its last contest against Arizona, the No. 24 Cal women’s basketball (12-4, 3-2) team looked revamped as it beat Washington (6-10, 0-5) 69-60 at home.
Thomas finished with 14 points in 31 minutes of play and hit three of the team’s four triples, but the biggest chunk of Cal’s offensive production lived in the post.
Junior forward Kristine Anigwe recorded her fifth double-double of the season against the Huskies, finishing with a team-leading 26 points and 10 rebounds. Senior forward Penina Davidson had quite the day herself, recording 18 points and pulling in nine boards.
With Thomas back on the court, Cal exerted a real sense of togetherness; the starting guard’s presence was largely enjoyed by her 6-foot forwards, who held the Bears down all game.
“I love that girl,” said Davidson of Thomas. “Those threes at the end, you can always tell she’s going to make it because she’s just so locked in. From the start, you’re always confident … that she’s going to bring it when we need it.”
The first quarter was dominated by Anigwe, paired with a couple clutch threes and some solid defense by the Bears. The star junior put up a team-leading 10 points in the first 10 minutes of play, as the Bears persistently fed its taller bodies who could not be slowed in the early going.
But in the second quarter of play, it was a whole new ballgame. The offense was not manufacturing in the post and was coming up with too many missed shots. Cal put up a mere seven points in the second quarter and shot a lousy 3 of 13.
“[Washington’s] game plan was to pressure on the perimeter and fluster us,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We couldn’t get it where we wanted to go.”
With six minutes to play before the half, Cal suffered a scoring drought that lasted a costly four minutes. The Huskies went on a 6-0 run and cut the Bears’ lead to a one-possession game at 31-29.
As the second half of play commenced, the Bears knew they had to get back to making their money in the post.
“At some point I said [to Anigwe], it’s Sac State,” Gottlieb said. “I wanted [Anigwe] to feel like she could score every single time in the post if we got it there.”
Last season against Sacramento State, Anigwe put up a career-high 50 points, and her coach wanted her back in that mindset against the Huskies. Perhaps it worked, because three minutes into the third, the Bears went on an 11-0 run led by Anigwe and fueled by Davidson.
Cal contained Washington in what was left of the back-and-forth contest and ultimately came up with the win, but its performance was too close for comfort. In consecutive games, the Bears recorded single-digit victories to Arizona and Washington, the worst and second-worst teams in the Pac-12, respectively.
To conclude the weekend, Cal hosts Washington State on Sunday, and it will be looking for the weekend sweep. The Cougars are the third-weakest team in the conference, and Cal needs a dominant win over them before it braces for some of the Pac-12 head honchos.
Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].