In the opening seconds of the third quarter, Courtney Range steals the ball and tips it back to Asha Thomas. Range, who had to tiptoe in order to stay in bounds and keep the ball in play, immediately streaks down the court and receives a pass from Thomas, laying the ball up easily. The layup was just another play that showcased Range’s dominance in easily her best game of the season.
In the first game of the Cal women’s basketball team’s stint at this winter’s Las Vegas Tournament against Southern Mississippi (7-3), the Bears (10-0) showed that they were in no way going to allow their undefeated record to be broken. Entering the tournament, they were an impressive 9-0. The start, which was continued by the 71-51 win over the Lady Eagles, marks the best one in program history and leaves Cal as one of only 11 Division I women’s basketball teams left with an undefeated record.
In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Bears outscored the Lady Eagles 18-11 to show poise on both offense and defense. They continued their scoring supremacy in the second quarter, once again scoring 18 points to Southern Mississippi’s eight and extend their lead to 36-19 by the time the first half had come to a close.
Leading Cal in first-half scoring was Range and Kristine Anigwe, who together outscored the whole of the opponent’s team. Range, the leader of the two, put up 18 points while Anigwe, the Bears’ usual leading scorer, contributed seven points to the lead. Five other Cal players contributed to the scoring effort as well. For all their scoring success, however, the Bears did play some sloppy offense which lead to 13 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
As the second half began, it became clear that while the Bears were still energized by their high-scoring first half, the Lady Eagles were becoming fatigued — probably by an active and pesky Cal defense that in the first half alone managed to grab four steals and make two blocks.
And even though the Lady Eagles were able to score 19 points in the third quarter (the same amount that they had put up in the first and second quarters combined), the lead that the Bears had amassed along with their steady and continued scoring allowed Cal to keep a strong 22-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
While at times it looked as though Southern Mississippi might be able to bring themselves back — they narrowed the lead to 18 with a little under 8:00 left — the mountain that the Bears had created was ultimately insurmountable for the Lady Eagles. The fourth quarter was also the only one during which Southern Mississippi was able to outscore Cal, 13-11 But the small push in scoring was not enough and the Bears won 71-51.
Cal was led in scoring by Range and Anigwe who put up 28 and 18 points, respectively. Both big players, though, were outrebounded by freshman C.J. West and junior Penina Davidson, who grabbed nine rebounds apiece. The victory was solidified by the Bears’ dominance down low where they outscored the Lady Eagles 34-20.
Southern Mississippi was led in scoring by Megan Brown, who put up 12 points, and Brittanny Dinkins, who put up eight points.
The Bears will face No. 20 Oklahoma tomorrow and Arkansas State on Wednesday as they continue tournament play in Las Vegas. If they want to continue their historic start, though, they are going to have to find their shots from behind the arch and decrease their turnovers as they only shot 23.5 percent from three-point range and turned the ball over 25 times. But the win sends a good signal that Cal is more than just Anigwe, and teams will have to do more than just shut down one player to grab a win.