After a back-and-forth battle, the Cal women’s basketball team built a formidable lead over Washington State in the hopes of shaking up the stagnant upper level of the Pac-12 standings.
Despite being one of only three Pac-12 teams ranked on the national level, the No. 23 Bears seemed stuck at fourth in the conference standings. This weekend’s results finally shook up the conference as Washington took down No. 3 Stanford — which was previously unbeaten in Pac-12 play — in one of the biggest upsets this season is likely to see. The only other ranked Pac-12 team, No. 11 Arizona State, also fell in a stunner to in-state rival Arizona.
The Bears capitalized on the teams’ misfortunes by winning both of their contests this weekend. Cal (16-7, 8-4 Pac-12) first defeated Washington on Friday before venturing to Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash., to take on Washington State. The Cougars (12-12, 6-6 ) have been sliding down the conference standings after starting Pac-12 play 5-0, and that trend continued when the squad took on the Bears at home. After remaining neck and neck through most of the game, Cal pulled away in the second half to defeat the Cougars, 87-70.
Washington State set the pace early, sinking the first bucket of the game and holding the lead through the first five minutes. The Bears first took the lead with 15:33 left in the half in the midst of a 13-2 run, but the Cougars refused to let the Bears run away in the first half, prowling back to reclaim the lead with 7:40 left in the half. The teams continued to jostle for the lead as the half ticked to a close, with Washington State edging the Bears at the whistle, 37-41.
Washington State held the lead into the second but could never quite shake the trailing Bears. Hot on the Cougars’ heels, Cal remained within eight before surging to take the lead. Cal’s aggressive defense held the Cougars scoreless for nearly five of the games’ final 10 minutes, but not without consequences. Star guard Brittany Boyd was whistled for her fifth foul, forcing her to leave the game with a little more than four minutes left.
The Bears did not let the loss of their leader faze them, and Cal went on to conquer the Cougars by a comfortable 17-point margin. Rebounding was a significant factor helping the Bears to pull away, as Cal bested Washington State 55-27 and pulled down 21 offensive boards. During the Cougars’ drought, the Bears jumped to a commanding 20-point lead to all but clinch the victory.
Despite not playing in the final four minutes of the game, Boyd finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Yet even with those enviable numbers, Boyd’s performance was not the best from the Bears for the night. Two of her teammates recorded double doubles, and three scored in double digits. Cal’s dominant post performer Reshanda Gray recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds to surpass the 1,000 career-points benchmark. Gennifer Brandon put up 13 points and snagged 20 rebounds to become Cal’s all-time leading rebounder. And Afure Jemerigbe notched 18 points and seven rebounds to help secure Cal’s victory over Washington State.
Taylor Brink covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]