Playing against their first ranked opponent of the season, the Bears found themselves up by three with less than three minutes to play against No. 20 Oklahoma (8-3). The Sooners finally had everything going their way, having cut down what was at one point a 25-point lead for Cal. The Bears desperately needed someone to stop the bleeding and protect their small lead and undefeated record.
Star sophomore Kristine Anigwe answered the call on a three-point play to extend the lead to six, and then drained two clutch free throws shortly thereafter to put the game away for good. Cal women’s basketball won by a final score of 82-74 to extend its record to 11 and oh — its best start in program history.
Anigwe finished with 32 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, good for her second 30-plus-point game of the year and 21st career double-double, which is the most among any underclassman. She accomplished this feat while going against one of the premier shot-blocking teams in the nation. On the season, Anigwe is averaging 23.8 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game, both career highs. With the way she’s been playing, she is definitely making her case to be National Player of the Year.
Of course, Anigwe got a little help from her friends. Senior Courtney Range had 13 points and eight rebounds, and freshman Jaelyn Brown came off the bench to score 11 points and dish out four assists.
But it was the Bears’ team defense that was especially ferocious tonight. It held the Sooners to only seven points in the second quarter and 20 points in the first half, both of which were season lows for Oklahoma. The Sooners also turned the ball over a season-high 28 times. Cal looked well on its way to victory with a 64-41 lead after the third quarter before nearly losing it all.
One of the reasons why the Sooners were able to storm back was because of all the turnovers by the Bears. As a team, Cal committed 33 turnovers, which is 33 more than head coach Lindsay Gottlieb would have liked. Even Anigwe was guilty of five turnovers.
Oklahoma wound up scoring a season-high 33 points in the fourth quarter. The Sooners were within reach after a technical foul by Range late in the fourth proved costly for the Bears. Oklahoma’s Maddie Manning was able to hit all four free throws, which cut the lead down to three. But from there, Anigwe’s strong play and a decisive putback by Penina Davidson sealed the game.
The Bears wrap up nonconference play against Arkansas State (2-9) at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday night at the South Point Arena, and they will begin conference play against Arizona on Dec. 29.
Jeffrey Liu covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]