Cal women’s basketball upsets No. 8 Louisville, 75-71

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Down by 11 in the second quarter and having just turned the ball over for the seventh time, No. 8 Louisville was reeling in its season opener. But as Cal women’s basketball forward Courtney Range, who picked up the turnover, started to dribble up the court, Louisville guard Briahanna Jackson ran in to pick her pocket. She took the ball and quickly went up for the layup. On the next play, the Cardinals again stole the ball from the Bears, leading to a second consecutive fastbreak layup, this time by freshman guard Asia Durr. By the end of this 20-second sequence, the KFC Yum! Center was rocking, and Louisville found itself right back in the game.

Despite Cal’s turnovers, it managed to hold on to its composure and maintain a 35-27 lead going into halftime. The Bears’ (2-0) sloppiness with the ball continued into the second half, but it didn’t matter, as their efficient shooting and advantage in the frontcourt led to a huge upset and a 75-71 Cal win.

The Bears came out strong despite being faced with a top-10 opponent on the road. They led for more than half of the first quarter and ended the period with the game tied at 14. Cal took advantage of its size in the period, and by the end of the half, it had 25 rebounds to Louisville’s 14. The Bears also used their height to abuse the Cardinals in the low post. Cal freshman forward Kristine Anigwe especially excelled, taking advantage of Louisville’s inability to front her in the post and going a perfect 4-4 from the field, scoring 11 points in the first half alone.

Going into the second half, the Bears looked to continue to feed the low post, and it worked, as impressive entry passes helped Anigwe spring open and score four more points to give Cal a 39-30 lead. The Cardinals, however, began to take advantage of the Bears’ sloppiness with the ball. After forcing Cal into 17 turnovers in the first half alone, Louisville ramped up its pressure even more by implementing a full-court press. The Bears couldn’t solve the defense and repeatedly turned the ball over before even crossing halfcourt, giving the Cardinals some easy buckets on the other end. The turnovers sparked a 16-3 run that gave Louisville a 46-42 lead. The Cardinals effectively packed the paint in the third quarter, preventing Cal from feeding Anigwe and forcing the Bears into perimeter jump shots. They managed to drain two midrange shots to end the period and tied up the score going into the fourth quarter.

Perhaps wary of allowing Cal to find its rhythm from outside, Louisville started allowing looks inside again in the final frame. Anigwe took advantage of her opportunities and dominated as she had for the whole game, ending the game with 19 points and eight rebounds. When it wasn’t Anigwe hurting the Cardinals, it was Range, who scored 19 points of her own. Their strong play in the fourth helped the Bears build a five-point lead, 67-62, with 1:31 left.

Louisville managed to cut it to one point with 48 seconds left, after a triple team off an inbounds pass led to another steal and then a transition layup for Jackson, who had 21 points and six steals. The next possession was a crucial one, and the Cardinals’ defense ramped up the pressure in the half court, but it overcommitted to the ball and left Range wide open for a layup. Louisville missed its next shot, so the Cardinals were forced to intentionally foul Cal to stop the clock. The young Bears were unshaken and made six of their eight free throws in the last 22 seconds, including four crucial ones from freshman guard Asha Thomas, which clinched the road win.

This upset will surely propel Cal into the top-25 in next week’s polls, and more importantly, it showed that the Bears’ prolific play inside can help them contend even with the nation’s best teams.

Hooman Yazdanian covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hoomanyazdanian.