Cal women’s basketball advances to round of 32 with 90-76 win over Fresno State

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With seconds remaining in the first half against the No. 15 seed Fresno State, the Cal women’s basketball team was leading only by four. The Bulldogs were shooting their way into contention, hanging with the second-seeded Bears.

Fresno State guard Ki-Ki Moore missed a short jumper in the waning seconds. Cal guard Brittany Boyd grabbed Moore’s missed shot, sped down the court, pulled up behind the arc and threw up a shot as the buzzer sounded.

It was nothing but net.

“It was lovely,” said forward Gennifer Brandon. “It gave us momentum. The swoosh, it was just beautiful. There was good energy going into the second half.”

The Bears were still only up 48-41 at halftime, but Cal did not look back in the second half. The Bears (29-3) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 90-76 victory on Saturday afternoon in Lubbock, Texas.

Boyd orchestrated the Bears’ victory, finishing the night with 21 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

“Coach (Gottlieb) told me at the beginning of the week, this is going to be a big game, and I could get a triple-double this week,” Boyd said. “She was right — I was one assist away. But that’s OK.”

In the first half, the Bulldogs (24-9) played as advertised as an excellent shooting team. Fresno State was raining 3-pointers on the Bears, making eight threes in the first frame. The Cal defense seemed to have no answer.

Moore created havoc with her dribble drives and use of screens. As the Cal defense struggled to maintain its defensive assignments, the Bulldogs were camping around the arc waiting to strike.

“When they finally missed a 3-pointer, I literally turned to high-five someone on the side,” said coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

Awakening from a 9-3 deficit from the field, the Bears went on a 10-0 run, capping it off with a jumper from forward Reshanda Gray. Cal was leading 19-13 at the 9:16 mark.

Gray was solid off the bench, finishing the contest with 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting.

However, the Bulldogs kept draining shots in the first half  — making 50 percent of their 3-pointers — to keep the game close. Although the Bears scored on 12 straight possessions going into the half, they went into halftime with only a seven-point lead.

In the second half, Boyd was instrumental in building Cal’s lead. Her endless energy allowed her to set up her teammates for easy scoring opportunities.

On the defensive side of the ball, Boyd helped out the Cal bigs on the glass as she notched nine rebounds.

By the 12:57 mark in the second half, Fresno State was trailing, 61-48. Moore did her best to keep the Bulldogs in the game, nailing a 3-pointer seconds after her team fell down by 13 to pull Fresno State within nine.

“I felt at some points I was watching one of our players,” Gottlieb said of Moore. “It was a terrific performance, and her teammates followed suit.”

The nine-point deficit was the closest the Bulldogs would come to equalizing in the second half. Cal held Fresno State to only four 3-pointers and 30.3 percent shooting overall in the second half.

But nonetheless, Fresno State proved to be more of a challenge than expected in the end.

“I said it from the beginning: Fresno State did not feel like a 15-seed from the moment I watched film,” Gottlieb said. “They certainly didn’t play like one.”

The Bears will now play the No. 10 seed South Florida on Monday.

Austin Crochetiere covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].