This article has been updated with comment from Lindsay Gottlieb, head coach for Cal women’s basketball.
The Bears had been floundering the entire game, their offense unable to churn out anything consistent. Like a yo-yo, they had seen themselves trail by double digits, only to come back to within a few points of their opponents, just to once again fall hugely behind. But with 1:47 left in the game, they were on the verge of catching up — down by just one point.
But then Kristine Anigwe commits a foul. And then Asha Thomas does. And then Courtney Range, too — sending multiple Utes to the free throw line. So the Bears see the game get away from them, losing 63-57.
After regaining their footing and breaking their three-game losing streak Friday against Colorado, the Bears (14-4, 2-4) seemed to once again flail at the start of the game against Utah (13-4, 2-4). Finding itself down 11-1 midway through the first quarter, the No. 24 Cal women’s basketball team could not get a single thing going offensively. Despite multiple attempts by Anigwe and Range, the Bears as a whole went 0-7 from the field in the first five minutes of the game.
Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, sensing that her team was on a quick downward spiral, called a much-needed timeout with 4:44 remaining in the quarter. The break seemed to be exactly what the Bears needed, and they scored nine points in the remainder of the quarter to end it down 13-10. The scoring surge was led by Anigwe, Range and Mikayla Cowling, who combined for nine of their team’s 10 points.
The Utes, however, were not willing to give up the sizeable lead they had amassed without a fight. Going on a 6-6 field goal streak, Utah once again gained a lead in the second quarter and was up by 11 after nearly four minutes. But akin to their performance in the first quarter, the Bears clawed back to finish down seven at the end of the first half.
Cal’s offensive attempts were heavily hindered by nine turnovers in the half, which led to 14 points for the Utes. The Bears were also outscored in the paint 20-8 and gave away eight fast-break points to Utah. The first half showed a lack of cohesion on the part of Cal as it exhibited gaps in its defense and an inability to steadily convert on offense.
The offensive troubles continued for the Bears in the third quarter, going on a scoring drought for over five minutes that saw them go 0-7 from the field. Thomas was the first to pull Cal out of this funk by hitting a three-pointer to bring her team within eight points of the Utes. From there, the Bears further narrowed the gap with a jumper and free throw from Anigwe to finish the third quarter down 49-44.
Once again unable to consistently find its offense, Cal went down by double digits in the final quarter. This time, however, the Bears found an offensive rhythm to get them out of the hole. Going on an 11-0 run while the Utes experienced a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought, Cal brought itself within one point with 1:47 to go in the game.
But the Utes were in the bonus, and as time ran out, the Bears committed multiple fouls to allow their opponents ample opportunity to extend the lead and secure the game. Utah was able to take advantage of these chances and converted five free throws to finish the game and beat Cal 63-57.
“This is not what our program is about, we’re not okay with this,” Gottlieb said. “We have to evaluate our ability to play 40 minutes hard the whole time and to do little things correctly that we’ve been doing all year but the conference has been getting better.”
Despite the fluctuations in offensive productivity, the Bears had some success. Anigwe once again tallied a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds along with seven blocks. Penina Davidson and Cowling also contributed to the rebounding with eight and nine boards, respectively.
The outcome marks the fourth loss for the Bears in five games, a huge deviation from their promising start at the beginning of the season. The trend has shown that they are not as solid as they might have thought back in early December, and in order to right this drowning ship, they are going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Sophie Goethals covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]