In addition to the basketball players, there was another group of people who worked up a sweat in the Cal women’s basketball game against Washington on Sunday: the officiating crew. Blowing the whistle a total of 20 times on the Bears, the game was very slow-paced, with frequent clock stoppages.
The Huskies, powered by guard Kelsey Plum’s 30-point performance and 30 team free-throw attempts, took advantage of the free-throw line to edge out the visiting Bears, 79-77. With 30 total free-throw attempts, the Huskies converted on 24, which accounted for more than a third of Washington’s offense. Cal, on the other hand, had just 12 free-throw attempts and could only sink eight of them.
In terms of play on the floor offensively and defensively, Cal had the edge. The Bears attempted eight more field goal attempts and shot better, at 46 percent compared to the Huskies’ 42 percent. Both teams were identical in rebounding and the turnovers were almost equal, with Cal committing 10 and Washington committing eight.
The most notable difference in this game was the difference in free-throwing. But it had a much larger effect than just simply giving the Huskies more points.
In order for the Bears to be dominant, one of the key things they need to control is the tempo. When Cal is forcing missed shots and picking off its opponents’ passes, it gives the team the opportunity to push the break and outrun the opposition.
But with nearly every other possession for Washington on the offensive side resulting in free-throws, the Huskies could get easy points and drastically slow the game down. Plus, every time Cal gets possession of the ball via a free-throw attempt, pushing the ball and trying to create a fast break is near impossible. With only six points coming from the fast break, the fast tempo on which the Bears thrive could not be achieved.
It also didn’t help that the fouls that led to the free-throw weren’t evenly distributed across Cal’s roster. In other words, it seemed like the fouls were picked up by the Bears’ best players, and as a result, foul trouble was also an issue.
Mikayla Cowling, Brittany Boyd and Gabby Green all finished the game with four fouls. Reshanda Gray, who finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, had five fouls. With the whistle being blown constantly by the referees, Cal could not play its defense with the same kind of aggression and ferocity to which the team is accustomed.
Despite the heavy differential in the free-throw line, Cal did have the upper hand late in the game. Toward the last 10 minutes of the game, the Bears and Huskies were back and forth switching leads, and the game could’ve gone either way.
But it wasn’t free-throws that really handed Cal the loss down the stretch. With the game tied at 64-64 with 3:19 left, Washington’s Jazmine Davis nailed a three to give the Huskies a three-point lead.
Gray responded right after, hitting a jump shot and closing the lead to 66-67. But then, Washington’s Talia Walton hit a midrange jumper, and Plum hit back-to-back jumpers to push the lead to 73-66 with only a little more than a minute left. Ball game.
Richard Lee covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].