The unicyclers wheeled their way around the court with their large black-and-green helmets and bright orange wheels. Some were three wheels high, towering above the forest floor — really just a court with silhouettes of trees at Matthew Knight Arena. The unicyclers used their wheels to jump over ropes and pump up the crowd.
Still, the main event was unable to measure up to the halftime show, as Oregon struggled against the Cal women’s basketball team (21-7, 13-4 Pac-12) Thursday night so much so that in the second half, the Ducks looked less graceful than the unicyclers exiting the court, losing 74-59.
But for the Bears, this night was grand. It was the first time in a while this team won convincingly with little to worry about in the second half. Lately, the second half has been an issue for Cal, which had been getting tired due to a lack of players on the bench. Because the Bears were able to establish a large early lead, however, it was not that much of an issue.
The game started out as strong for the Ducks (12-16, 5-12), who pulled out to an early 12-8 lead, which they held until halfway through the first half. Oregon was able to achieve this lead with sophomore Jillian Alleyne scoring eight points in the first 10 minutes. While the Ducks were able to hold onto their lead until there was nine minutes left in the half, this was the last time in the game that they led.
Cal then proceeded to go on a 10-0 run, bringing the score to 18-12. Scoring then became easy for the Bears, who shot 44 percent of their attempted 3-pointers in the game and made 50.8 percent of their total attempted shots. Three-pointers were a huge part of Cal’s success at the end of the first half, as the Bears were able to score five in the last eight minutes of the half.
Senior guard Brittany Boyd was a huge part of this effort, scoring two of these 3-pointers. Boyd also had her highest scoring game since missing a game a few weeks ago with a concussion, scoring 17 points, the most for the Bears on Thursday night. She also had six assists and looked more like her usual self running around the court.
Coming into the second half with a 38-24 lead, Cal continued its run despite an impressive performance by Alleyne, who had a season-high 33 points in the game in addition to 16 rebounds. The sophomore set even more records, having her 67th double-double of her career and her 26th of the season, leading the NCAA.
Despite the effort, the Bears’ ability to score threes continued in the second half, which allowed them to seal the game. This included scoring three in a row to go on a 9-0 run. One of the shots came from freshman Gabby Green, who had 12 points total in the game, and sophomore Courtney Range shot the other two within 45 seconds.
Senior forward Reshanda Gray had a quieter night than usual, scoring 13 points with five rebounds, while sophomore Mercedes Jefflo also had 13 points to add to her impressive effort in the last few games.
This night should be remembered not for the unicycles or the easy victory but should be remembered as a moment in the impressive coaching career of Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. Recording her 100th career win at Cal in just her fourth season in UC Berkeley, Gottlieb has had an incredible tenure, including an appearance in the Final Four in the 2013 season.
“I’m really lucky to be the head coach at Cal,” Gottlieb said. “I’ve had an unbelievable coaching staff for four years and players. More than the wins, there have just been so many incredible moments. That’s what’s most meaningful. I’m really fortunate. Most importantly, it’s a big win for our team, so a good night all around.”
The win against Oregon was important, but more difficult trials lie ahead for these Bears with just one regular season game left. With Gottlieb at the helm, the test Saturday against No. 7 Oregon State will provide a glimpse of whether this season will be another great chapter in this coach’s career.
Alaina Getzenberg covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]