Cal forward Kristine Anigwe has the ball with her back to the basket. She takes her time to assess her options. Guard Asha Thomas is near the three-point line, and Mikayla Cowling is on the wing. A pass could allow Cal to keep possession and the quest for a basket alive. Instead, Anigwe backs down on her defender, spins and goes for the layup. It falls in and gives Anigwe and Cal another two points.
It was baskets like the one above that served as Anigwe’s bread and butter in Cal women’s basketball’s massive 86-63 win over CSU Bakersfield. Anigwe had an amazing game as she recorded a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds — her third in the past three matches. She shot 10 for 13 and also dished out two assists.
“Great day to be a Golden Bear, it was a fun game,” said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We’re getting better with each game and showed the balance that we can have with the inside-outside game. I love how our freshmen have come along, and the veterans are leading the way.”
Unlike in their previous matches, where Cal was on the backfoot in the first quarter, the Bears started off on a positive note with Anigwe displaying some impressive post play as she scored seven points. Freshman Mi’Cole Cayton and Courtney Range stacked up five each to cap off a strong offensive performance in the quarter. CSUB, however, kept the chase alive on the back of forward Aja Williams, who scored three treys to end the quarter, 25-21, in Cal’s favor.
In the second quarter, Cal’s defensive game improved as it constantly harrowed the opposing five and did not allow them space to take shots. Anigwe was again unguardable in the paint as she pulled in two offensive boards and was able to convert them into second-chance points. While Anigwe provided the firepower from close range, Cayton’s all-around performance helped Cal go into halftime with a 40-34 lead.
The second half began with Cal speeding to a 10-point lead with Anigwe scoring four in quick succession. The Bears’ ball movement also became much quicker, exemplified by Range’s fastbreak layup in the third minute. Cowling collected the rebound after Williams’ missed three-pointer and spotted Range making a run behind the Roadrunners’ defense. Range received the perfect pass from Cowling and made one of the simplest buckets of the game.
On the defensive end, Cal’s defense improved exponentially as it held CSUB to a four-and-a-half-minute scoreless run in the quarter. Efficient man-to-man marking and strong containing allowed Cal to bludgeon CSUB’s offense, with the visitors only scoring nine points. The third quarter ended with the Roadrunners well out of the race, trailing the home side by 19 points.
Cayton deserves special praise for her defensive performance as her hard work and effort was unmatched in today’s game. She was also flawless from long range, shooting three from three.
“My confidence has grown tremendously after this match,” Cayton said. “My teammates were there to help me today, and my coaches’ guidance was crucial for my game today.”
The Bears’ dominant performance over the first three quarters had put the game well beyond doubt in the fourth quarter. Cal’s performance in the match was only solidified by 24 points in the frame.
Williams, on the other hand, was the player who had a humongous game on the offensive end. The Roadrunners’ forward put up an astonishing 35 points, shooting 11 for 23 from the field, with nine of them coming from three-point territory. A lack of support for Williams, combined with Cal’s ruthlessness on both ends of the court, allowed the Bears to walk away with the easy victory.
“Being able to have a defensive identity is the biggest takeaway today,” Gottlieb said. “We have to continue growing on that end and also building on our confidence with the balanced offense we’ve seen in the last couple of games.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]