The Cal women’s basketball team’s final game of the regular season was a microcosm of its entire season. There were ebbs and flows — times when the Bears looked like one of the best team’s in the nation and others when they couldn’t seem to figure out how to work cohesively on either end of the court. Ultimately, it was the large deficit incurred early on — a common trope for the Bears this season — that sealed the fate of Cal’s 71-56 loss against No.10 Oregon State (27-3, 16-2 Pac-12)
The Bears (18-12, 6-12 Pac-12), undoubtedly affected by the excitement buzzing through OSU’s arena on the Beavers’ senior sendoff, had a tough first quarter. Unable to use the entire shot clock, the Bears hurried their offensive possessions and forced up unwieldy shots. The Beavers, on the other end of the court, were patient and succinct in their ball movement — often finding an open player in the remaining moments of their possession. These opposing offensive trends earned OSU a hefty 12-point lead by the end of the first 10 minutes, 24-12.
But then came the second quarter.
Cal’s offensive game plan, which had relied heavily on isolation play, recalibrated its focus on getting the ball into the paint, finishing close to the basket and drawing fouls. And it worked — the Bears scored 22 points in the second quarter, led by freshman Jaelyn Brown and Kristine Anigwe who scored 12 and 11 points in the first half, respectively.
Just as Cal was clawing its way back, though, a flagrant foul on Anigwe led to a five-point swing, appearing to fledge the Bears’ fortitude. Anigwe, while receiving the ball down low and turning, connected her elbow with the face of an OSU defender. She put the ball up and finished the layup while also being fouled — leading to a potential three-point play and decreasing Cal’s deficit to just five points. But instead, a flagrant was called on Anigwe, the and-1 call was reversed, and the Beavers scored two free throws, making the gap 10 points.
While the play clearly affected the Bears’ psyche, they got over the hump and finished the half down 41-34 to a Beavers team that was heading toward serious foul troubles.
But then came the third quarter.
OSU ramped up its offense, finding and exploiting every gap in the Bears’ defensive formation, leading to a deluge of scoring down low. In the paint, the Beavers scored eight points in the third quarter alone — nearly matching Cal’s entire offensive production for the whole third quarter, which amounted to nine points.
If life had been breathed back into the Bears in the second quarter, it dissipated in the third, amounting to a deficit of 16 points that Cal would be unable to come back from in the fourth.
As a team, the Bears also fell behind because of a disparity in three-pointers. The Beavers hit eight to Cal’s four, a difference that contributed to the loss. Three of the Bears’ four three-pointers were hit by Brown, with Asha Thomas and Mikayla Cowling, the usual leaders from behind the arc, both going 0-3. Along those lines, the Bears also failed at finding a multitude of scoring options in the game — relying heavily on Brown and Anigwe to generate points while no other players on the team put up double-digits.
The loss was tough, but it proved that the future of Cal women’s basketball has the potential to be very bright. Brown, who was far and away one of the hardest working players on the court in this game, finished with a substantial 21 points and four rebounds. She was also the highest scoring player on either team, proving the skill of Cal’s bench, which scored over half of its total points in the game — 32.
But Brown and Anigwe couldn’t pull of a win on their own, and the issues that the Bears have faced all season coalesced in this final game; a loss that could seal Cal’s postseason fate.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]