Coming into Sunday afternoon’s game, the No. 23 Cal women’s basketball team was braced for a high-scoring affair as it was pitted against the No. 1 offense in the nation. The matchup against the high-flying Oregon Ducks (9-4, 0-2 Pac-12), who came in averaging 102 points per game, was a wild one throughout, and the Bears (10-3, 2-0) just barely managed to pull away for a 101-98 overtime victory at Haas Pavilion.
With only two minutes remaining in regulation and Cal up by nine, it seemed the Bears had sealed the victory. Up until the 9:42 mark in the second half, the score had remained close, but the Bears exploded for a 14-4 run over the next two minutes that suddenly stretched their lead to 74-63.
With 2:27 remaining, Cal was up, 87-78. But Oregon proceeded to force a series of turnovers by the Bears, and after an onslaught of fast break baskets by the Ducks, Cal found itself desperately clasping onto its lead with a minute to play.
With only six ticks on the shot clock and 30.7 seconds left on the game clock, the Bears led, 88-86. Cal inbounded the ball to Brittany Boyd, but a pass to Gennifer Brandon — who returned to action against Oregon after nearly two months out due to unspecified personal reasons — was bobbled by the All-American forward, and a mad scramble for possession resulted. After a quick consultation between the three referees, the call was made for a jump ball. Possession would go to Cal with only 25.5 seconds remaining, and with the shot clock now off, all the Bears had to do was hold the ball and wait for Oregon to foul them.
Boyd was tasked with inbounding the ball, but with the point guard unable to find any of her teammates on the court, the junior point guard was called for a five-second violation by the officials. The ball was awarded to Oregon, and the frenetic finish was far from over.
The Ducks brought the ball up the court and tried to initiate the offense with a pass into the post. Cal senior Afure Jemerigbe read the play, however, and dove into the passing lane to force a jump ball. This time, possession went to Oregon.
On the ensuing play, the Ducks put the ball in the hands of freshman phenom Chrishae Rowe, but her jumper rattled off the rim and into the hands of teammate Ariel Thomas. Thomas dished the ball back to Rowe, who immediately laid it into the net to tie the score at 88-88. With only a few seconds remaining, the Bears tried to make one last play, but Boyd’s three-point attempt was off the mark, and the game went into overtime.
Cal opened the scoring in the extra period with a pair of baskets by Brandon and freshman Courtney Range. Oregon countered with a series of scores from Rowe, sandwiching a free throw by sophomore Jillian Alleyne before Reshanda Gray and Boyd took matters into their own hands. Gray continued her dominant post-play to score the game’s next four points, and after a three-point play by Alleyne, Boyd scored Cal’s next five points to push the score to 101-96 and seal the win for the Bears.
Boyd ended with 17 points and nine assists, but it was Gray who stole the show. The junior posted a career-high 33 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out with 1:05 remaining in OT.
“(Gray) is so good, and I tell her every second that she can be better,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “At halftime, I really got into her for not being as confident and finishing as she could, and look what she did. She turned around and put up incredible numbers.”
The Bears also received a welcomed boost from substitutes Mikayla Lyles and Range. Lyles went a perfect four-of-four from three-point range and ended with 12 points and four rebounds, while Range added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
“With Courtney Range, the sky is the limit,” Gottlieb said. “I love what she’s doing on the boards. She has such great energy, and she has a very high basketball IQ. We needed everyone today, and I thought she was a huge part of it.”
Josh Netter covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].