Just more than a minute into the second quarter, the game is already in Cal’s hands, as the team is up 24-8. But that isn’t stopping guard Asha Thomas from utilizing her quickness on defense. Westmont’s Aimee Brakken throws a lazy pass to her teammate out on the wing, and Thomas pounces into the passing lane. She grabs the ball and is already at full speed. No one’s going to catch her. Thomas runs into the lane and rises to convert an easy layup.
The Cal women’s basketball team’s season tipped off Sunday with a game against Westmont, and the exhibition matchup largely played out like that play, with the Bears taking advantage of their strength on defense for easy transition buckets. This advantage played out on the scoreboard as well, with Cal winning, 91-39.
The game started off poorly for the Warriors, with the Bears scoring the game’s first points just 10 seconds into the game. Things didn’t get much better from there for Westmont as Cal took advantage of a defense that seemed to be in disarray, and by the midway point of the first quarter, Cal was up, 15-4. The second half of the quarter went a little better for the Warriors’ defense — they gave up only seven points in the last five minutes of the period, but the offense still couldn’t solve the looks the Bears’ defense threw at it, scoring only four more points.
Cal’s two starting freshmen, Thomas and forward Kristine Anigwe, quickly got any early jitters out of the way. Anigwe, who ended the game with 19 points on a perfect 8-8 from the field, scored the game’s first bucket, and Thomas ably ran the team’s offense from the point guard position, including an impressive assist to Anigwe for Cal’s 10th point.
After the freshmen got comfortable, it was the Courtney Range show. The forward made a three on the Bears’ second possession, followed it up by converting an and-one bucket, made another three and ended the first quarter with nine points. She ended the game with 13 points.
“With all the practice that we’ve had, I felt confident coming into this game,” Range said. “We’re just looking forward to the rest of this season.”
Cal held a 22-8 lead that it looked to build on going into the second quarter. The Bears certainly held up their end of the bargain on the offensive end, looking explosive at times during the second quarter. Thomas, especially, stepped up her game, draining two threes and scoring eight points in the period, eventually ending the game with 18 points and seven assists. Everyone who played converted at least one field goal in the first half, helping the Bears to a 46-22 lead going into the break.
Cal came out of halftime and took its game to another level, outscoring the Warriors, 26-5. The Bears instituted a full-court press for which Westmont had no answer, forcing the Warriors into bad pass after bad pass in just trying to get the ball past halfcourt before a 10-second violation. Many of these passes led to turnovers that Cal quickly converted into points on the other end. By the end of the game, the Bears had 22 points off 17 Westmont turnovers.
Cal continued to play well in the fourth quarter and held on to win comfortably. Despite the 52-point win, some things emerged that the Bears will need to look out for going into the games that count. The full-court press that clinched the game for Cal isn’t likely to work as smoothly against NCAA opponents who are less likely to fall apart in the face of pressure. On top of that, the Bears only have one player who naturally fits into the point guard position in Thomas, and the offense stagnated somewhat whenever she was out of the game.
“We have players that love competition, they’re fun to watch, that I think play an exciting style. There is something different about gameday,” said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “It was fun to see it all come together in front of other people.”