Surge in second half against CSUN keeps Cal women’s basketball perfect

Lorenzo Dela Cruz/Staff

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The Cal women’s basketball announcer, as he presented the “Bear Hug Cam,” made it clear how much the Golden Bear faithful needed a win “after yesterday,” in reference to the Big Game loss against Stanford.

The Bears delivered the relief after another strong third-quarter performance against CSUN, clinching their seventh win of the season, 67-42.

The win was extra special for senior center/forward Kristine Anigwe, as she passed the 2,000 career points mark with her 26 points, becoming the third player in the program history to have ever done it. She also grabbed 10 boards to continue her double-double streak, which stands at seven-in-seven games.

“I’m just really blessed,” Anigwe said. “I’d never imagined that I would come here and have 2,000 points — that’s crazy. I am just grateful for everyone around me — it hasn’t been easy.”

Cal scored 17 unanswered points to start the second half, as the Bears shut out the Matadors’ offense for nine minutes, building up a 50-34 lead heading into the final quarter.

What seemed like a great 10 minutes, however, was clouded by the injury of senior guard Asha Thomas, as she was carried off the court directly to the locker room. The medical staff will be looking at a possible knee injury, according to head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, with more updates to come soon.

The Bears continued their run in the last quarter for a 36-14, second-half score in the blowout win.

Cal shot above 50 percent from the field in the second half, while holding CSUN to 21 percent as the Bears improved their already impressive second-half performances early in the season. The goal would be expanding this performance to the full 40 minutes, as Cal is eyeing to cement its place as one of the elite teams in the country.

“I think the half-time adjustments make more of an impact than maybe in the past. I think they can process what I’m saying and do it,” Gottlieb said. “I do think we can be better for full 40 minutes, but I am trying to get them to see that we want to be in control of every game — I think we’re good enough.”

The first half of the game was a different story, as Cal was only up by 3 points after 20 minutes of action, 31-28. The Bears started the second quarter with a 7-0 run, complementing a high-scoring first quarter, but were unable to score efficiently after that as they scored only 11 total points in the quarter.

“We are too good — we have great players at every spot; we need to play harder, we need to be more locked in, we need to not take possession for granted in any kind of way,” Gottlieb said. “Really, it was like ‘Step up, be better!’ and that’s exactly what they did.”

Anigwe’s foul trouble seemed to be one of the problems in the second quarter as she showed what she can do starting from the tipoff, scoring Cal’s first 12 points in the game.

“Kristine (Anigwe) just continues to show that she is the best post player in the country on both ends of the floor,” Gottlieb said.

Cal outrebounded CSUN 52-30 in the game, led by Anigwe and sophomore forward Alaysia Styles as they cleaned the boards with 10 and nine rebounds, respectively.

On the frontcourt, which might be even more depleted with Thomas’ injury, sophomore guard Kianna Smith and graduate transfer Receé Caldwell shared the duties throughout the night. Smith was the second leading scorer with 14 points, while Caldwell showcased her leadership, controlling the tempo on her way to a season-high nine assists.

“There isn’t a post in the country as fast as Kristine Anigwe or Jaelyn Brown, so to take full advantage of that, why wouldn’t we not play fast?” Caldwell said.

Cal will finish another week undefeated, possibly keeping its upward trend in the AP Poll, and will head to Moraga to face St. Mary’s next Saturday.

Can Sariöz is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @can_sarioz.