In the middle of the second quarter, sophomore forward Mikayla Cowling, a 43.8 percent three-point shooter on the season, passed up a wide open shot from long range without a better look in sight. Cal women’s basketball’s collective confidence in its shooting ability was clearly shaken.
The Bears (10-7, 1-5 Pac-12) had one of their worst offensive halves of the season in the first half of their 69-59 loss on the road against Oregon (12-5, 1-5), shooting an atrocious 6-30 from the field. Cal played from behind the entire game, with its only lead Sunday coming from the opening basket.
After a 4-4 tie, the Ducks surged ahead with a 13-6 run. Oregon’s defense held Cal to 5-17 shooting from the field in the first quarter, while the Ducks’ offense produced a more efficient 7-13 mark. The disparity in field goal attempts was the result of the Bears’ offensive rebounding, particularly by freshman Kristine Anigwe and junior Courtney Range. While these rebounds produced extra possessions for the team, Oregon’s length made it difficult for Cal to convert on these opportunities. Cowling, however, ended the quarter for the Bears on a high note, hitting a three-pointer as the first quarter buzzer sounded to put the score at 17-13.
Despite entering the second quarter with just a four-point deficit, the Bears’ inability to knock down shots from the perimeter allowed the Ducks to take over the game. Cal missed its first eight field goals of the quarter, with its lone made field goal of the quarter coming off a layup by Range at the 3-minute-51-second mark. Range had an open lane to the basket after freshman guard Asha Thomas penetrated into the paint and drew Oregon’s defensive attention before dishing it off to Range. The Bears scored just four points in the quarter, with the other two points coming from made free throws by Anigwe.
Oregon expertly adjusted its defensive scheme in response to Cal’s shooting woes, clogging the paint to force the Bears to continue to shoot from the perimeter. The presence of multiple defenders inside was the reason Anigwe struggled to convert close-range shots, shooting an uncharacteristic 2-8 in the first half and 4-14 for the game. With so many bodies close to the basket, the Ducks were also able to gain the rebounding edge, 35-29.
Cal looked like a different team to begin the second half, starting the third quarter by scoring on three consecutive possessions for a 7-0 run. A made three-pointer by Range was followed by a layup by Cowling in transition. After a timeout by the Ducks, Anigwe drew a foul on Cal’s next possession and converted both free throws. With the lead cut in half to 31-24, Oregon seized control of the game again and extended the lead back to double digits.
For the Ducks, the standout performance belonged to senior forward Jillian Alleyne, who recorded a double-double with 25 points and 15 rebounds on 11-14 shooting. With her 15 boards, Alleyne became the Pac-12’s all-time career rebounding leader. While Anigwe initially did a good job of forcing Alleyne to fight for position inside the paint, the senior found her rhythm in the second quarter, and Anigwe was unable to contain her. Anigwe had a double-double of her own, but she’ll need to excel on both ends of the floor to be a real difference-maker against elite Pac-12 competition. To succeed, the Bears will also need bigger contributions from the rest of the team, as conference opponents are adjusting the way they defend Cal to limit Anigwe’s impact.
Kapil Kashyap covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]