Season snapshots: Cal women’s basketball

Patrick Chong/Staff

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Brittany Boyd spent the majority of the game alternating between scoring and wincing.

Cal women’s basketball entered its match against No. 2 Baylor on the heels of Boyd’s miraculous game-winner against Fordham with 14 seconds left on the clock.  Hindered by a nagging right ankle injury for several weeks, Boyd played all but the final 46 seconds of the Bears’75-56 loss to the Lady Bears during the second round of the NCAA tournament. The defeat marked the end of a disappointing season after Cal’s tremendous 2012-13 year that culminated in its first Pac-12 conference championship and the program’s first Final Four appearance.

Before the start of the season, Cal women’s basketball head coach Lindsay Gottlieb stated that her team had the “potential to be a championship team.” Such praise contributed to the high expectations that marked the beginning of the Bear’s 2013-14 season — the team’s first without its talented senior class. But despite the performances of Afure Jemerigbe, Gennifer Brandon and star Boyd through the season, the absence of a consistent offensive option would leave them ill-equipped to overpower Baylor. Cal trailed 34-33 at halftime and managed to tie the game at 44 with less than 14 minutes left, but Baylor’s 13-2 run left the Bears in the dust, who were outscored 41-23 in the second half.

It became more and more apparent through the season that Cal would never reach the lofty goals set for and by them before the year started. The Bears understandably lost to some of the top-10 squads in the nation but suffered embarrassing home losses to substantially worse teams. Perhaps the worst of these defeats was to unranked George Washington, which saw Cal blow a seven-point halftime lead.

Prior to the Bears’ disappointing NCAA exit, Cal fell in the second round to Washington State, ending its seven-year streak of entering the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. The Bears’ lack of offensive firepower, so apparent in their loss to Baylor, was showcased in their game against the Cougars, in which Cal shot 34.3 percent and managed zero treys in the second half.

The battle of the Bears, which included seven ties and 17 lead changes in the first half, was looking up for Cal, especially after key Baylor contributors Odyssey Sims and Nina Davis both sat out the final seven minutes with foul trouble. But the Bears, quite simply the inferior team, were unable to capitalize on the duo’s absence and were instead driven out of the game after Baylor opened the second half on a seven-point run.

The Bears squad that made it to the final four entered the tournament after an incredible 32-4 season and was respected as a national powerhouse. But this year’s team had little choice but to hope to be the Cinderella of the tournament, similar to Louisville last postseason. Despite the disappointing finish, it was a strong individual season for many players, including Brandon — who set the school’s NCAA tournament single-game rebounding record with 15 — and Boyd, who garnered 185 assists and averaged 14.7 points per game. With Boyd and junior Reshanda Gray at the helm, Cal has the potential for a deeper postseason run next year.

Contact Michelle Lee at [email protected].