Bears easily cruise past Oregon State for first Pac-12 win

After a rough weekend in Los Angeles to close out the year, the Cal women’s basketball team’s 73-56 victory over Oregon State was exactly what the doctor ordered to start 2012.

The Bears (10-5, 1-2 in the Pac-12) started conference play against UCLA and USC, only to be delivered their two worst losses of the season. While a number of factors attributed to the unexpected dip in Cal’s performance, none were more important than the fact that the Bears could not shoot the ball. In their two games, they scored a combined 109 points and shot a dismal 41-for-145 from the field.

But at Haas Pavilion Thursday night, Cal’s shooting significantly improved from its last road trip. The Bears had the hot hand early in the game, displaying a huge improvement from last week as they finished the first half with 39 points. Despite the dip in the field goal percentages in the second half, Cal collectively shot better, showing that last weekend was all in the past.

“Last week I thought that we didn’t do a good job of controlling the tempo of the game and all through practice we’ve been working on that,” forward Reshanda Gray said. “And this previous week during practice, I thought that we did a great job and that rolled over into today’s game. So today’s game, we really controlling the tempo.”

The game opened favorably for the Bears, as Bears forward Gennifer Brandon scored the first five points of the contest. But for the first six minutes, the Beavers (10-4, 1-2) chipped away at the early deficit Brandon built until they took their only lead of the game at 10-9.

But Oregon State could not extend its lead, committing three consecutive turnovers. After a layup by Brandon and a 3-pointer by guard Lindsay Sherbert that went answered, the Beavers were left chasing the Bears from behind the entire game.

With a four-point lead, the Bears turned to their post players to churn out points inside the paint. With three minutes remaining at the half and the Cal’s lead at seven, center Talia Caldwell stole the ball in front of the Beavers’ basket and capped it off with an easy layup. After a poor offensive showing in Los Angeles, Caldwell finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

But not all was perfect for the Bears in the first half. Guard Afure Jemerigbe, who scored six points, sprained her ankle in the first half and did not return to the game.

Although Cal went into halftime with a 15-point lead, the lead was cut down to eight with 14 minutes remaining on the clock. But with the immediate 7-0 run made by Gray’s post play and guard Mikayla Lyles’ 3-pointer, the little hope for an Oregon State comeback was lost.

The Bears will play Oregon on Saturday at 2 p.m at Haas Pavilion.