Cal women’s basketball struggles in second half in 65-54 loss to USC

Ariel Hayat/File

Related Posts

At Haas Pavilion on Sunday night, everyone was honored. Breast cancer survivors, nurses and their family members. The senior members of the Cal women’s basketball team. The many shades of pink decorating the court and the bouquets of flowers from family members gave the crowd increased fervor and frenzy. But fanfare and excitement don’t win games. Celebrations, honoring ceremonies and parents in attendance don’t win games. Playing for 40 minutes wins games.

Instead, it seems like the Bears played for 20, which resulted in another game in the loss column for Cal, falling to USC, 65-54.

“To be competitive in this league, you have to be locked in for 40 straight minutes,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We’ve played in big games before, in front of parents — I didn’t feel like that was it. We could never get to a place in the second half where we had a great rhythm or felt good, and I think we are better when we’re clicking with one another. It just never felt that way.”

Losing to USC (14-11, 6-8 Pac-12), Cal (19-6, 11-3) broke its eight-game win streak by falling apart in the second half. After holding a 12-point lead two minutes into the second half, the Bears were unable to defend, and their scoring struggles grew. They then held onto that lead for only 10 more minutes, when the Trojans were able to take control of the rest of the half. Throughout the final 20 minutes, Cal struggled, especially on defense but also in matching the intensity of USC, including the Trojans’ very spirited bench.

On senior night, however, one star was able to stand out. Senior Reshanda Gray had an incredible game, with her eighth double-double of the season, playing on an injured wrist. With 10 rebounds and 32 points, Gray showed why she is such a crucial part of the team, especially because she scored more than half of the Bears’ points.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to Reshanda,” said USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. “I mean, what a phenomenal game. There was nothing we could do with her. She was 10 for 10 from the free throw line. She did a phenomenal job.”

Senior Brittany Boyd did not seem to be having as good of a night in her first game back after injuring her head. Boyd appeared to hurt her ankle or foot in the game, but she came back after only a minute out. Scoring only eight points, however, was not enough from the fast-paced guard, who also managed six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Everything Cal did well in the first half reversed itself in the second half. The Bears went from shooting 52 percent (13 of 25) from the floor in the first to 27 percent (6 of 22) in the second half. To add onto that, USC was able to outscore the Bears, 40-21, in the second half, as opposed to the 33-25 lead the Bears had going into the half. Another area in which Cal struggled was scoring points off turnovers, with the Trojans scoring 22 and the Bears scoring only 14.

A deafening blow in the game came from a Trojan three-pointer scored with 4:30 left, by redshirt sophomore Alexis Lloyd. The basket was scored just as the shot clock was hitting zero. The blow of that shot to the Cal team was loud, and it took something out of the whole crowd.

“When we feel we can rescue it, they are making shot-clock, buzzer-beating threes,” Gottlieb said. “But at that point, they are feeling good, and we are not, and that’s what happens — it’s basketball. There are a lot of games left. Were we going to go undefeated the rest of the way? Probably not. So the job is now to take this nasty lesson and have it make us better, and that’s the only thing we are going to do with it. I have faith in our team.”

Alaina Getzenberg covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]