Improved shooting helps Cal women’s basketball blow past Penn State, 75-58

Aditi Ragunath /File

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Cal athletics can’t seem to escape the term “turnover.” Toward the end of a football season that has been won and lost by way of turnovers, Cal women’s basketball has experienced its own problems keeping the rock in its possession.

Fortunately, both sets of Bears have managed to win games despite a high turnover count.

Turning the ball over 21 times for the second-straight game to start the season, Cal defeated Penn State on the road, 75-58, behind another monster performance from forward Kristine Anigwe, complemented by another strong outing from guard/forward Jaelyn Brown.

The Bears’ frontcourt duo scored 40 points and grabbed 29 boards together, as Anigwe displayed a heavy dose of dominance en route to a 24-point, 22-rebound performance.

Cal’s improved shooting secured the win right from the get-go, as both field goal and 3-point percentages improved substantially compared to opening night. The Bears shot 45 percent from the field and 32 percent behind the arc against the Lady Lions’ defense.

In a game that was defined by scoring spurts from both sides, Cal ended the third quarter with a 15-2 run and never looked back in its second win of 2018.

Both Cal and Penn State started the game slowly, as the first quarter ended with a 13-10 score in the Bears’ favor. The Lady Lions were only three of 16 from the field, while the Bears made two more shots with the same number of attempts.

Cal also lost CJ West to an injury as she walked to the locker room with a shoe off at the end of the first quarter, leaving the Bears especially shallow on the frontcourt line.

Penn State could never find its stride except for small portions of the game, ending the game with a discouraging 29.2 percent shooting mark from the field. Junior guard Siyeh Frazier pitched in a career-high 17 points, but that stat line was far from enough to keep pace with Cal.

Cal converted four of its five shots during an 8-0 run in the second quarter, while Penn State could not score for more than three minutes. Turnovers, however, prevented the Bears from expanding the lead.

In the second half, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb attempted to go small by resting Anigwe, but Cal’s star couldn’t rest much as the Lady Lions tied the game early on.

“We felt like they were getting too many open looks in transition early in the second half — I thought we looked a little bit tired,” Gottlieb said. “So, mainly I challenged them to get back in transition — defense gets stops, and we had a run.”

The Lady Lions followed with their biggest lead in the game, 43-39, with three minutes left in the third quarter. That surge from Penn State, however, ignited a fire under the Bears, who jumped back ahead with a 9-0 run, which would then turn into a 15-2 run to end the quarter, 54-45.

In the final 10 minutes of play, the Bears built on their game-deciding run to end the game with a 17-point advantage, winning their first road game of the season in convincing fashion.

Up next, the Bears will stop in Provo, Utah to face BYU on their way back home from the East Coast on Tuesday. The Cougars started off on the right foot with an overtime 72-70 victory against UC Riverside.

Last year, Cal played host to BYU for a 70-45 win, and the Bears’ sole objective will be a repeat performance to come back home all smiles from the two-game road trip.

Can Sariöz covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @can_sarioz.