Weak 4th quarter sinks Cal women’s basketball at USC, 61-47

Tim Hyon/File

Related Posts

With the Cal women’s basketball team set to take on USC on Sunday in Los Angeles, the Bears were hungry for a win to get back on track after losing four games in a row.

Cal (10-9, 1-7 Pac-12), which only had seven players see the court, was too fatigued to defeat the Trojans (15-5, 3-5), however, who dominated the fourth quarter to win, 61-47.

The Bears had to switch their starting lineup with guard Gabby Green missing her second consecutive game, giving forward Penina Davidson a chance to start. She’s usually the first Bear off the bench for head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s squad, but Sunday, Davidson made her mark early. She scored Cal’s first bucket of the game and four of the team’s first seven points, with the other three coming off of a Mikayla Cowling trey. Davidson’s early contributions were especially important for the Bears, who have struggled with depth concerns all season long and have become increasingly reliant on freshman Kristine Anigwe, who scored only 10 points, to produce offense.

Despite the balanced early start, Cal’s offense was dormant in the first quarter as USC’s defense forced the Bears into a series of crippling turnovers. Cal shot 50 percent from the field in the first period but eight turnovers only allowed the Bears to get off 10 shots. The Trojans’ offense, however, looked just as bad and couldn’t find the bottom of the net. They converted Cal’s series of giveaways into only four points and shot a bleak 24 percent from the field. With both offenses playing terribly early on, it seemed appropriate that the score be tied heading into the second quarter, 11-11.

The offenses looked ready to pick things up in the second quarter, and the period saw USC end a scoring drought that started in the first quarter and that spanned nearly six minutes. A midrange jumper by guard Aliyah Mazyck put an end to this dismal showing with 8:25 to go in the second quarter and put the Trojans back into a 13-13 tie after Anigwe had driven past her defender to score her first points of the game.

The remainder of the half, however, continued to flash the sort of disappointing offense that was prevalent in the first quarter, and the teams went into the locker room with USC up, 26-24. Cal committed another six turnovers in the second quarter for 14 in the half, en route to a substantial 23 in the game. The Trojans continued to struggle to take advantage of all these miscues and only turned them into 18 points in the game, including 10 in the first half.

A second half comeback appeared to be a tall task for the shorthanded Bears, who only had six players see the court in the first half and were likely drained after having played on Friday. Davidson and Anigwe, however, seemed motivated to bring back Cal on their own. They each scored five of the Bears’ first 10 points in the second half and Davidson especially looked impressive, as she attacked the offensive glass and the paint.

With the forwards playing their best in the second half, Cal was able to stay in the game even as the rest of the team was mostly absent on offense, going only 2-5 in the third period. Going into the fourth quarter, the Bears still found themselves right in the thick of things, trailing 42-41. The fatigue began to settle in during that final frame, however, and the load of carrying an offense with only six players getting any time on the court proved to be too much.

After Cowling hit one of two from the charity stripe with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game, Cal’s offense completely shut down. The Bears failed to score for the next seven minutes and 33 seconds and in that time, USC embarked on a crippling 17-0 run aided by three treys, including two from guard Courtney Jaco.

Although Cal came alive on offense somewhat in the final two minutes, it was far too little and impossibly late in the game. The Bears scored five points in that span which served only to make the score a bit more palatable, and they managed to get a seventh player on the court. But the scoring drought and the lack of energy was way too much for Cal, which secured its fifth consecutive loss.

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