Thanks to a monster game from Reshanda Gray and important contributions from untested freshmen, the Cal women’s basketball team handed Northwestern its first loss of the season.
The No. 17 Bears (3-2) took down Northwestern (4-1), 65-51, on Sunday afternoon, exhibiting superior shooting and rebounding to dispatch the previously undefeated Wildcats. Despite missing the frontcourt presence of forwards Justine Hartman to injury and Gennifer Brandon to personal matters, the Bears dominated down low. Cal’s Gray led the charge.
On Cal’s first possession of the game, point guard Brittany Boyd drove the ball down the lane and dished it to Gray. The 6-foot-3 junior forward caught Boyd’s pass and tossed up a layup, which caromed off the side rim. Gray rebounded her own miss, and her second-chance shot fell through the net. The Bears would continue to look for Gray all afternoon, and her dominant work in the paint led Cal to victory.
Gray put up 23 points on impressive 9-of-13 shooting, and she also contributed 10 rebounds and two steals on the day.
“We’re down post players, so I knew I had to step up and be a leader,” Gray said. Her performance was reflective of a player on the rise, as her scoring and rebounding have both shot up significantly since last season.
“I definitely put in a lot of work over the offseason,” Gray said. “I knew I was going to play a lot of minutes this year, and I’ve tried to raise my level.”
Gray was supported in the post by the dynamic 6-foot-3 freshman Courtney Range, who started her third game of the season Sunday.
“It’s great to play with (Range),” Gray said. “It’s a bonus for us. She’s really a guard playing a post spot, and she runs the floor really well. She knows how to throw dimes, and as a post player, I love those passes from her.”
Although Range struggled with her shot — going 3-of-13 from the field — she still made her presence felt down low with her rebounding. She grabbed 13 boards on the day, six of which were on the offensive glass. Range’s energy and rebounding, complemented by Gray’s scoring, were key to the Bears’ success in a game in which leading guard Boyd was limited to only 14 minutes due to persistent foul trouble.
Cal’s main offensive facilitator and third-leading scorer on the season, Boyd was unable to find her rhythm against Northwestern, going 0-for-5 from the field over the course of a disjointed 14 minutes. She did contribute three assists and three rebounds, but for most of the game, all she could do was support her team from the bench. In Boyd’s absence, ball-handling duties fell into the hands of freshman guard Hind Ben Abdelkader, who posted six points and four assists.
“Obviously, we didn’t expect Boyd to play 14 minutes and foul out,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “But I think other people stepped up and did well.
“I thought we saw some of the young kids grow up today, and these minutes are going to be valuable down the road,” Gottlieb said. “I think we’re going to be a great team. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I’m happy to see us take some positive steps today against a very good Northwestern team.”
Cal’s next game will be Friday, when it takes on Wake Forest in the Nugget Classic in Reno.
Josh Netter covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].