Cal women’s basketball takes down UC Riverside, 71-56, at home

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Kristine Anigwe receives an entry pass in the first play of the game and is fouled hard, knocked to the ground by a UC Riverside center. She gets up slowly, shaken by the force of the impact. She will be fouled three more times in the course of the first 2:33 of the game, and each time she gets up, the growing anger becomes more evident in her face and body language. The anger doesn’t shake her, though, only makes her work harder down low. And by the end of the first quarter, she has amassed six points and two rebounds for the Bears.

After trailing 10-1 a little over three minutes into the first quarter at home against UC Riverside, the Bears cleaned up their act and finished down only two points by the end of the frame, 21-19. The comeback was thanks in part to three three-pointers made by Cal and hard work down low that brought the Bears second-chance opportunities for scoring. On the other end of the court, the Highlanders also sank three three-pointers as well as put down multiple mid-range jump shots to maintain their lead in the first quarter. Cal, however, eventually came out on top, winning the game 71-56.

The second quarter brought a completely different story than the first. Fueled by tight and active defense, the Bears were able to force turnovers that led to additional scoring opportunities. Cal’s chances were capitalized on, in part thanks to quick ball movement and crisp passing by Asha Thomas and Mikayla Cowling, who both put up two three-pointers in the quarter, and Anigwe, who put up six more points.

The Bears were able to convert a huge 66.7 percent of their three-point attempts in this quarter, contrasting with the Highlanders, who failed to hit even one of their attempts. This advantage no doubt contributed to their growing lead in the second half.

In the second quarter, Cal outscored the Highlanders 22-8, putting them up 41-29 at the end of the first half. These 41 points largely came in the paint, where the Bears outscored UC Riverside 18-10, and on second chance points, where they held a 10-0 advantage.

The third quarter kept the Bears on track, with UC Riverside scoring 16 points to Cal’s 14, making the score 55-45. Anigwe continued along her scoring tirade, putting down 12 points in the quarter. Unlike the second quarter, though, the Bears did not make a single three-point shot and instead relied heavily on points in the paint from Anigwe and Courtney Range.

By three minutes into the fourth quarter, though, the Bears’ once 17-point lead had diminished to only four. Unable to get things done offensively and lacking the tight defense from earlier in the game, the Bears found themselves once again having to fight to keep control of a game that not so long ago was undeniably theirs.

Cal looked to its veterans to regain its dominance, gaining huge points from Cowling, Anigwe and Range who together scored 56 points in the game — as many as their opponent — contributing to Cal’s 71-56 win. Anigwe continued to control the paint despite being beat up down low recording 12 rebounds and putting up her second double-double in a row. Her rebounds were more than a quarter of her team’s 47 — which were massive compared to UC Riverside’s 31.

The Highlanders were led by Lauren Holt and Rejane Verin who together combined for 35 of their team’s points. Verin, despite fouling out, was also able to grab nine rebounds for her team. No other players on Riverside, though, were able to contribute double-digit points, which affected their ability to keep pace with the Bears’ powerhouse offense.

“We have a lot of trust for each other this year. I feel like if I’m not going get the ball, they know that they can create a play and they can score. Everyone can score. We’re not just relying on me scoring, we’re relying on Courtney, Asha, Mikayla — everyone. The outside presence is really strong this year,” Anigwe said.

Sophie Goethals covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]