After escaping poor air quality in Berkeley, the Cal women’s basketball team traveled to Stanford for a matchup with University of the Pacific and escaped again with an 81-69 win.
The Bears and Tigers both started the relocated game with energy and pace. Cal brought its typical loud, high-intensity defense, and Pacific matched Cal with a full-court press of its own. After a sloppy first few minutes of turnovers and missed shots, both teams settled in, and it was Pacific who built an early lead.
The Tigers picked apart the Cal defense in the first half with a patient attack. When the Bears went to a 2-3 zone, the Tigers found the soft spots, with forward Brooklyn McDavid knocking down three short jumpers from in front of the elbow in the first quarter. When Cal played man defense, Pacific took advantage of an aggressive defense to convert on multiple backdoors when Cal jumped passing lanes.
It was a team effort for the Tigers. Six players had 4 or more points in the first half, and 11 of the 13 Pacific field goals were assisted.
On the defensive end, the Tigers were stifling as well. Falling back from its press into man and multiple zone defenses, Pacific prevented Cal’s offense from getting into a rhythm. The Bears were unable to feed star Kristine Anigwe in the paint and instead settled for perimeter passes and threes. Set plays were rarely executed well, as Cal struggled to get anything going in the half-court.
Still, the Bears trailed by just 1 point at the break. Four blocks from Anigwe and just 4 points from Pacific star Ameela Li kept Cal close, and a late surge for the Bears brought them into the locker room down one after a subpar first half.
The start of the second half brought much of the same. Pacific remained patient on offense and continued to throw different looks at Cal on defense. The Bears, though, used a few quick transition baskets to get their offense flowing and made a 13-0 run midway through the third quarter to pull away.
Anigwe scored 12 of her 25 points in the third frame, dominating the offensive glass and generating point-blank scoring opportunities. The senior superstar had another efficient game, going 10 of 14 from the field in 36 minutes of action.
The Bears led 56-44 going into the final quarter, which became a shootout, as both teams went off for 25 points. Li got things going for the Tigers, generating 7 points and three assists in the fourth. For the Bears, everyone got involved, as the ball started hopping around to create buckets from cutting layups and open threes.
In the end, the Bears won 81-69 to move to 4-0 on the season. Anigwe impressed again, generating offense even without many low post touches. She also opened up opportunities for others, with forward Alaysia Styles scoring 10 points off the bench, as post defenders were either doubling or shading toward Anigwe.
In the backcourt, Cal’s trio of starting guards demonstrated how dangerous they can be, as graduate transfer Receé Caldwell, senior Asha Thomas and sophomore Kianna Smith all displayed their ability to score and create for others.
Though Caldwell struggled from the field, she posted five assists, and Thomas and Smith combined for 33 points. Smith kept the Bears in the game with 11 first-half points, finishing with 18 on the afternoon. Thomas had a perfect day, pouring in 15 points on four of four from the field, including a perfect three of three from behind the arc.
Fellow guard Mi’Cole Cayton made her first appearance since tearing her ACL in last year’s season opener against St. Mary’s. She continued to sport a brace around her right knee and was scoreless in eight minutes off the bench but displayed the high energy that led her to earn 13 starts as a freshman.
It seems like head coach Lindsay Gottlieb is trying to ease Cayton back into the rotation, and she looks ready to provide solid minutes off the bench.
Cal earned a good win Sunday, but moving forward, the Bears will need to sharpen their half-court offense if they want to escape the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Tim Sun covers women’s basketball. Contact him at