After having its six-game winning streak snapped by top-ranked UConn a week ago, the No. 23 Cal women’s basketball team bounced back Sunday afternoon with a 17-point victory over Lafayette (6-5) at Haas Pavilion. Despite the convincing 77-60 final scoreline, this game was far from settled at halftime.
Sloppy passing and woeful shooting defined the first half, and the two teams entered the break separated by only three points. The Bears (8-3) seemed to be feeling the effects of their nationally televised loss to UConn as sluggish ball movement and poor shooting prevented them from pulling away against an unranked opponent. Cal shot 37.9 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from three-point range in the first period. The Bears also committed eight turnovers.
Luckily for Cal, the opposition was just as bad. Lafayette finished the half with six turnovers of its own and shot just 30.6 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from beyond the arc. Throughout the half, the Bears only managed to exchange baskets with Lafayette, and the halftime scoreline read 30-27 in favor of Cal.
Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb seemed to wake her Bears up from hibernation during halftime, because Cal came out in the second period with noticeably improved energy and efficiency. Cal outscored Lafayette, 47-33, in the second half, drastically improving its shooting percentage to 43.5 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point land.
“I loved our energy in the second half,” Gottlieb said. “I thought that our energy kick started the higher shooting percentage.”
Three-pointers by Hind Ben Abdelkader and Afure Jemerigbe in the opening minutes of the second half bumped Cal to a 38-30 lead, its largest at that point. A flurry of baskets would ensue from the Bears, with the second half surge being led by two familiar faces in senior point guard Brittany Boyd and junior forward Reshanda Gray.
In the absence of All-American Gennifer Brandon, who has been out for unspecified personal reasons since mid-November, Boyd and Gray have carried the Bears this season. The inside-outside combo of Danielle Flacco and Linnel Macklin led Lafayette with 13 points apiece, but they were unable to match the all-around play of Gray and Boyd. Against Lafayette, the pair combined for 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Boyd also contributed four steals.
“Boyd started us off with some really good energy and got us going and then shots started falling,” Gottlieb said. “I loved that everyone contributed.”
Separate runs of 13-2 and 10-0 in the second half saw Cal take a 70-48 lead with 4:15 to go, at which point head coach Lindsay Gottlieb sent in the backups. This win for the Bears, which brings the team to 5-1 at home and an impressive 8-1 against unranked opponents this season, marks the conclusion of nonconference play.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Gray said. “We still have a young team that is progressing.”
Cal will open its Pac-12 campaign Friday night when it takes on Oregon State at Haas Pavilion. The Bears could be boosted by the presence of Brandon, who returned to practice this past week.
Josh Netter covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].