Cal women’s basketball falls short to Colorado in offensive struggle

Jihoon Park/Staff

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At half time, Rama N’diaye walked to center court. She was handed a bouquet of flowers, and she was moved to tears as the entirety of Haas Pavilion got to its feet and clapped wildly for the Cal alumna who is fighting a battle with cancer. The Bears were decked out in pink uniforms to show their support for N’diaye’s fight, and the entire moment was moving — a testament to the importance of team and community in a time of need.

The excitement in Haas at halftime for N’diaye was rivaled only by the roars that went through the crowd in the waning moments of the contest — as the Cal women’s basketball team (17-9, 5-9) showed distinct signs of life and nearly came back against Colorado (14-11, 4-10), but eventually fell, 64-59.

The game began with nearly two and a half scoreless minutes for both teams, and the lack of concrete production continued throughout the first 20 minutes for Cal.

The Buffaloes’ defense, which played a modified man-to-man, packed all five players tight in and around the key, halting the Bears’ usual offensive productivity down low. Cal was held to just 10 points in the paint for the entire first half. But while the Bears were granted a wealth of open looks near and beyond the arch, they went 0-6 from three in the entire half.

Colorado, conversely, scored nearly half of its points from beyond the arch, going 5-16 on the half. The Buffaloes’ countless opportunities were a result of the lack of discipline on the part of Cal’s man-to-man defense. Adjusting in the second quarter, the Bears switched to a zone defense, which appeared to thwart Colorado’s offense. But what Cal couldn’t seem to adjust for in the half was its propensity to throw the ball away. The Bears committed nine turnovers in the first half, leading to 13 Buffalo points — a huge factor in the 35-28 lead that Colorado took into the second half.

“I thought that the first couple possessions, when we had some good looks, they just didn’t go down,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “I thought our defense in the first quarter wasn’t good”

The halftime of a basketball game is the time to reset, recalibrate and come up with a new game plan for the remaining 20 minutes of a game. But while those are the intentions, they are not always the outcome. The third quarter was, for the Bears, plagued by many of the same mistakes that they had made throughout the game already: turnovers, wild passes and poor shot choice.

While Cal continued to vary its defense, switching back and forth from a zone to a man, nothing appeared to work effectively against Colorado. The Bears remained at a deficit after the third quarter, down 47-44.

If this wasn’t to be a scathing loss for Cal, the tables would absolutely have to turn in the final quarter.

And at times it looked like they might. There was the Mikayla Cowling three with 3:57 left to cut the Bears’ deficit to four, Kristine Anigwe’s jump shot that brought her team within three with 24 seconds left and the Cowling steal that gave Cal the ball with just 12.8 seconds remaining. But with that final possession, Asha Thomas committed one last fatal turnover, and those moments of upswing were not enough to make up for countless turnovers and poor shot choices that doomed the Bears to an eventual 64-59 loss.

The effort was lead by Anigwe, Cowling and Thomas, who scored 15, 12 and 14 points, respectively. But turnovers were the deciding factor in this loss, with Cal committing 19 leading to 21 points for Colorado. The Bears drained just three three-pointers, compared to eight made by the Buffaloes, another detrimental difference for Cal.

“We are really good, and we are trying to get somewhere, but it’s not happening as fast and as smoothly as we want it to,” Gottlieb said.

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