Cal women’s basketball falters in 2nd half, loses to Washington State

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Another day, another loss for the Cal women’s basketball team (15-7, 3-7). 2017 has been nothing if not ugly for the Bears. For a team that started with so much promise in the opening half of the season, it has regressed phenomenally in conference play.

The Bears’ 79-84 loss to Washington State is their seventh of the season. Cal has compiled an overall record of 15-7, of which only three wins have come in conference play. They are currently tied for eighth on the Pac-12 table.

The Bears started off on a positive note in a high-scoring first quarter. They were led by forward Courtney Range, who racked seven of her 13 points in the opening period. Range’s offensive prowess in the first quarter was complemented by forwards Kristine Anigwe and Penina Davidson as well as guards Mi’Cole Cayton and Jaelyn Brown, who contributed to the offensive effort. The quarter ended at 23-19, with the score in Cal’s favor.

Anigwe came to life in the second quarter, when she dropped 10 of her 32 points. Her low post production in the entire half was very solid, as she looked to anchor Cal to a victory on the road. She shot 50 percent from the field and also collected five rebounds in the half. Guard Asha Thomas pestered the Cougars on the defensive end and came out of the half with two of the Bears’ five steals.

For all of its offensive effort in the first half, Cal never looked truly convincing when it came to consolidating their lead. The largest lead for the Bears was by eight, and with a home side that was looking for defensive lapses like a hungry scavenger, it just wasn’t enough.

Still, Cal had a very positive first half, where it shot the ball better from the field, 48.3 percent to the Cougars’ 39.5 percent. The teams also had a stalemate in the battle for the boards, with 20 each. Both teams shot poorly from long range, but the Cougars’ two made treys kept them alive in the race. Had the Bears converted even one of their three attempts, the game might have ended on a different note. Cal went into the half with a one point lead over the home side, 37-36.

In the second half, however, the Bears’ season long reliance on Anigwe as the go-to scorer became their downfall. While Anigwe was phenomenal, as she shot eight of nine from the field, the rest of the team faltered in offering her the offensive support that was needed. Cal’s biggest problem this season has been finding a secondary scorer that can add to Anigwe’s impressive tally. While Anigwe is averaging 22.8 points per game, Range, the second-highest scorer, is only averaging 11.5 points per game. In fact, only Anigwe and Range are averaging points in double figures for Cal. Thomas has had some bright spots in the season, but her streakiness was on full display against Washington State, especially from three point territory. She attempted five threes, and converted none. Considering the close score, a trey or two could have massively affected the outcome of the game.

The Bears were also hindered by the Cougars’ frequency at the free-throw line. Washington State took 11 free throws in the second half and converted 10 of them with guard Pinelopi Pavlopoulou being the main beneficiary. A little cleaner play in the paint, or even some better zone restriction would have worked in Cal’s favor.

The most prominent nail in the coffin, however, for the Bears was their atrocious ball handling. The Bears committed 24 turnovers, with Thomas being on the wrong end of seven of them. In turn, Cal allowed 26 points off of turnovers. Better ball handling would have gone a long way in overturning the five-point deficit that the Bears eventually lost by, 79-84.

This was a game that Cal could have won, but thanks to some fairly inconsistent and unremarkable on-court decisions, the team was unable to come away from Pullman, Washington with a victory. The Bears’ conference record is not something head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and her cohorts will be proud of. They’ll really need to pull up their socks for the rest of the season, if they intend to deliver on a quarter of the promise they showed early in the season.

Devang Prasad covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DevangPrasad.