Cal women’s basketball survives Washington’s upset attempt

Maya Valluru/File

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Disaster averted.

On an afternoon in which two players fouled out and its star went cold, Cal women’s basketball managed to escape the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament with a 71-68 victory over Washington to advance to the quarterfinals.

Thursday afternoon’s battle in Seattle had the perfect blend of conditions for the Huskies to upset — if the ball had bounced their way one or two times, they very well may have shocked the Bears.

Despite being very undersized relative to Cal, Washington hung around thanks to the contributions of star sophomore Amber Melgoza, who finished the afternoon with 30 points, four rebounds and four assists.

On the flip side, the Bears’ junior Kristine Anigwe was ice-cold for much of the contest.

Anigwe didn’t register a single point in the first half and finished the game with only eight points, well below her season average. She also had the worst plus/minus of any of the nine Bears to touch the floor.

Cal seemed destined to coast the rest of the way with its strong opening in the third quarter, when it took an 11-point lead, but Washington erupted and went on a 21-4 run over a six-minute stretch to take the lead. During that run, Melgoza was responsible for 15 of those points, whether it be by scoring or assisting.

The Bears rebuilt another healthy lead, going up by 10 points with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but backed by a string of defensive stops, the Huskies narrowed the deficit to one possession by the final seconds of regulation.

Down by 3 with less than 10 seconds in regulation remaining, Melgoza had a decent look from beyond the arc to tie the game but couldn’t get enough leg power on her shot and airballed to secure Cal’s win.

Junior Asha Thomas picked up the slack for Anigwe, putting up 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Senior Mikayla Cowling and sophomore Jaelyn Brown also had 14 points apiece.

With the win, Cal advances to the quarterfinals and will take on No. 9 UCLA, a team that ended the season on a bit of a cold spell by its standards.

While UCLA recorded victories in its last two games of the season against Colorado and Utah, both of which are unranked, it won by only 6 and 7 points, respectively. In the two games prior, the Bruins lost in back-to-back overtime games against then-No. 15 Oregon State and then-No. 8 Oregon.

UCLA features a pair of premier scorers in seniors Jordin Canada and Monique Billings, who are averaging 16.3 and 15.0 points per game, respectively.

In her past four games, Canada has put up at least 20 points per night and is averaging 22.3 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting from the field and 38.5 percent from deep.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510