Cal women’s basketball edges USC 63-56, completes SoCal sweep

Aditi Raghunath/Staff

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Fresh off an upset win over No. 13 UCLA, the Cal women’s basketball team (17-7) finished off the SoCal sweep with a thrilling 63-56 home victory over the USC Trojans (12-11).

The 1st quarter started off as a back-and-forth affair, with both teams playing at a fast pace, which became the theme throughout the whole game. The Bears picked up right where they left off against UCLA, emphasizing transition basketball. The Trojans played up to speed as well, getting out in transition early and often. The fast pace had its downsides for both teams as the quality of offense suffered from hurried shots and careless turnovers. Still, there were plenty of exciting moments, one of which was a nifty Mi’Cole Cayton transition layup in traffic, finishing with her right hand on the left side.

USC featured its center Kristen Simon prominently in a relatively smooth inside-out brand of offense. The Trojans often had multiple three-point threats on the floor at a time, giving Simon space down low to operate. Simon, the Trojans’ leading scorer and rebounder, took advantage of the space to body up either Anigwe or Davidson down low, and get deep post position where she would finish with either hand.

But even the fast play of the 1st half took its toll on Simon, who looked exhausted settling into a chair during a timeout midway through the 2nd quarter. Still, Simon worked tirelessly to keep the Trojans neck and neck with the Bears, and would end up finishing the game with 24 points and 9 rebounds.

Both teams settled down in the 2nd half, although they still had spurts of quick transition basketball. Cal in particular ran the floor whenever possible, leading to one sequence in the third quarter where it got scored on three consecutive transition layups. Asha Thomas kept the Bears offense humming, whether it was sprinting down the court for layups or knocking down a pair of timely threes.

“Transition, we need to always do that,” said Thomas. “That’s like our bread and butter. That’s how we get going.”

Cal’s Penina Davidson also had a tremendous game, showcasing her versatile skills with her soft touch on floaters, rattling screens and tenacious effort to go get the ball. She sacrificed her body time and time again during critical moments in the 4th quarter, diving for loose balls and simply out-hustling the other team.

With the score tied up at 53 apiece and 3 minutes left in the game, Cal’s Mikayla Cowling got out in transition. One sweet crossover later, Cowling found herself finishing a full court and-one layup that left a poor Trojan on the floor. On the ensuing missed free throw, Davidson grabbed the offensive board to keep the possession alive. Shortly after, she muscled her way in for the and-one putback. Davidson’s made free throw would put the Bears up by five, a lead that they extended to seven by game’s end.

“Just proud of our effort and our resolve,” Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We feel like we can go eight-nine deep and be effective. I just have to figure out what the best combinations are.”

Anigwe was not featured as much on offense this game, as the combination of transition basketball and USC’s double-teams were factors in limiting Anigwe to 10 points. But the Bears did not need Anigwe to be superhuman, as they finally provided her with the support that had been sorely lacking during the Bears’ slump.

The wins over UCLA and USC appear to signal that Cal is finally out of their slump. The Bears have run the floor a lot more and as a result, they are playing some of their best basketball of the season. Entering the final stretch of the season, they will need to continue their strong play. But with the broom in hand, the cleaning just got a little easier.

Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]