A win is a win — pretty or ugly, blowout or buzzer-beater. No. 21 Cal women’s basketball (13-4, 4-2) wrapped up its weekend at home, 2-0, with a Sunday win over Washington State (8-10, 1-5), 66-60. The Bears were hungry for the weekend sweep after beating Washington on Friday night, but after three consecutive tight games to weak competition, Cal’s ability to hang with the top dogs hangs in question.
“I think this weekend was about resilience and toughness and grit,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “Every player on the team was just all-in for the entire game, and we needed it. (The) Pac-12 conference is tough, and wins are hard to come by.”
From the way things started out, it was difficult to tell that Cal was the then-No. 24 team in the nation and that WSU is third-to-last in the Pac-12 and has a losing record.
The Bears put up 38 points in the paint and scored more points from the free-throw line (17) than from outside the paint (11). For a squad that averages 15.9 three-point attempts per game, they totaled only eight attempts, making only 1 of 8 on the day.
Junior guard Asha Thomas, usually one of Cal’s offensive workhorses, was 1 of 6 from the field and missed all three of her attempts from beyond the arc. But Thomas was perfect in another aspect of her game, shooting a perfect 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
“We’re pretty good 3-point shooters, but other than that, if you’re trying to beat us, we have other ways to engage our teammates,” Thomas said. “Just do whatever else that we need to do besides just (shooting threes).”
Where Cal manufactured the bulk of its points during the game was in the post, fueled by none other than junior forward Kristine Anigwe. Anigwe recorded her sixth double-double of the season, racking up a season-high 30 points and pulling in 17 rebounds. The forward played all but three minutes in the ballgame and recorded season-high numbers in minutes played, field goals and free throws made.
Aside from Anigwe, who had a stellar night, no other Bear recorded double digits. But six players put up at least four points, solidifying the team effort that went into the hard-fought win.
Senior forward Mikayla Cowling had a team-leading seven assists and recorded three of Cal’s five steals. Cowling only made two of her nine field goal attempts on the day, but she made the buckets when they counted the most. With 3:02 left to play, she hit a key jumper to tie the game at 57, sparking a team rally that vaulted it into the lead for good.
“What each player lacks, the next player has it,” Anigwe said. “One game a different player could go off. … It’s not just me.”
Washington State did its best to contain the Bears, recording six blocks throughout the contest. The Cougars also swiped the ball eight times, but even the changes of pace they caused during the game were not enough to rattle the Bears late in the game.
It is fair to say that no team is going to take on Cal believing it will come away with an easy win. But for the Bears, mustering up a big win with top competition in the coming weeks will be crucial in their race to the top of the Pac-12 conference.
Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].