The New Year’s Eve fireworks seemed to come a day early Wednesday, courtesy of the Cal women’s basketball team’s offense, when the Bears played host to Cal State Northridge.
No. 19 Cal (9-2) decimated the Matadors (2-11), 106-44, on the strength of exhilarating performances by freshman forward Kristine Anigwe and sophomore forward Mikayla Cowling, who combined for 59 points on 26-33 shooting.
Both teams showed the effects of playing in the middle of the holiday season with missed field goals and turnovers filling up the stat sheets. In the first four minutes, the teams combined for only two field goals and the game was tied 4-4. The Bears failed to get even a shot up on many of their possessions with four turnovers in the two and a half minutes between the time they scored their fourth point and sixth point.
Both teams’ offenses picked up after this stretch, trading easy baskets, before Cal took over, going on an 8-0 run to end the period up 19-11. Cal continued to dominate in the second quarter as Anigwe began to make her presence felt. The five-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award winner scored the period’s first 13 points by consistently dropping in layups over smaller defenders, helping to stretch the 8-0 run to a 21-0 run.
Northridge’s inability to stop Anigwe, combined with its struggles to solve the Cal defense — the Matadors suffered a nearly eight minute scoring drought that started with 2:35 left in the first quarter — left a win well out of reach. Once Anigwe was substituted out to rest, the Bears looked to other options on offense, and the remaining starters contributed at least one basket to the team’s cause, helping Cal maintain its vicegrip on the game. The Bears went into the half leading, 46-23, dominating on both ends of the court and shooting 62.5 percent from the field versus 25.7 percent for Northridge.
While the game was basically out of the Matadors’ reach in the second half, they did seem intent on at least slowing down Anigwe. But sophomore guard Gabby Green, who finished with 14 assists to go along with 11 points and 10 rebounds in her first career triple double, was too accurate a passer and Anigwe was just too good to really be taken out of the game. She managed to keep scoring over any look the defense gave her, with 10 of her 30 points coming in the third, and she found different ways to contribute, drawing in at least two defenders even when she didn’t have the ball. This helped her teammates get easier baskets and left Northridge with nothing to do but watch as the lead grew. The Matadors gave up another backbreaking run to open the third quarter, as Cal scored 24 of the next 26 points to go up, 70-25.
Northridge, which was staring a potential 40-plus point loss in the face, clearly had its confidence shaken and was pressing, forcing up shots and looking as if it was trying to make the score respectable all at once. But this didn’t help the Matadors, who had nowhere to turn on offense with leading scorer Tessa Boagni taken out of her comfort zone and second leading scorer Serafina Maulupe unable to hit a shot, shooting 4-17 from the field.
As Northridge’s offensive struggles continued and the Bears’ offense kept humming, albeit slightly less explosively, Cal was well on its way to easily its biggest blowout of the season. The Bears’ 62-point win will serve as a confidence booster as Cal prepares for the Pac-12 season to begin this weekend.