In boxing, there are times when an athlete delivers what should be a knockout punch to an opponent, but despite the monstrous blow, the fighter finds the will to get up.
The No. 25 Cal women’s basketball team surrendered a season-high 91 points Friday to No. 6 Oregon, only to face No. 16 Oregon State two days later. The Bears got up from their knockout punch, but despite their efforts, they fell 68-48 to the Beavers.
Cal’s women have only shot more than 45 percent twice in their entire conference bout, a threshold that they surpassed in 8 out of 11 games in nonconference play.
The Bears now stand at a very telling .500 in Pac-12 play. From one perspective, Cal has proved capable of beating all of six of its unranked conference opponents. From another, it has proved incapable of toppling any of the five Pac-12 teams currently slotted ahead of them.
Junior forward Kristine Anigwe has been one of the only consistent factors against top competition, totaling double digits in all but one of Cal’s matchups against ranked teams.
Most teams preparing to face Cal likely share the same game plan: Stop Anigwe and force others to beat you. A 36-17 halftime score in favor of the Beavers was a sign that OSU had Angiwe’s number.
The Beavers held Anigwe to a mere 4 points in the first half and 13 in the entire game, forcing four turnovers from Cal’s primary offensive weapon.
Manufacturing points through their 6’4’’ star could no longer be the strategy for the Bears, and subsequently, OSU exposed their ongoing shooting struggles. The Bears shot a dismal 21.9 percent from the field in the first half, creating a hole that would prove to be too big for the team to dig itself out of.
The first quarter was all Katie McWilliams, a junior guard for the Beavers. McWilliams recorded a season-high 19 points, 14 of which came in the first period. She lead OSU to an early 20-10 lead, picking apart Cal’s defense.
OSU started off hot, making quick work of the Bears, and would maintain its tempo the rest of the way. All the while, Cal remained in a rut.
While McWilliams owned the first period for OSU, the second half belonged to senior center Marie Gülich. She was fairly quiet in the early minutes of the contest, but as one of the Pac-12’s finest, Gülich racked up her 11th double-double of the season, posting 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Beavers had two hot hands which carried them throughout the game, while Cal divided its scoring across its rotation. Ten different Bears got on the board, but only Anigwe — who scored 13 — would finish in double digits.
All five players who attempted 3-point shots were unsuccessful. Cal posted a fat goose egg from deep, going 0 of 11 on the day — its first game of the season without a long-range make.
Junior guard Asha Thomas was the next highest scorer for Cal, finishing with 8 points on 3 of 9 shooting. For the first time all season, Thomas has recorded single-digit performances in three straight games. Meanwhile, freshman guard Kianna Smith totaled just six, extending her recent slump.
Cal put together a respectable 18 points in third quarter, but the Beavers made the game of catch-up impossible. OSU maintained at least a 16-point lead throughout the entire period, despite the Bears’ efforts. By the fourth quarter, the game was all but done.
This team has fluctuated near the bottom of the top-25 rankings all season — starting the season at No. 20 and now standing at No. 25. The Bears’ current ranking says a lot about them — they’re better than a lot of teams in the nation, but worse than just enough.
Perhaps the Bears simply do not have what it takes to break the divide between good ball teams and excellent ones.
Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].