Cal women’s basketball returns home from San Diego with 2 more wins

Lorenzo Dela Cruz /Staff

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Former English soccer player Gary Lineker famously called his sport “a simple game,” saying, “Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes, and at the end, the Germans always win.” In sports, a winning culture is crucial because it helps you hold on to games when things do not go as planned.

The Cal women’s basketball team walks confidently toward a winning culture as it returns home with two wins from the San Diego Thanksgiving Tournament. The Bears played two quite different games on their way to a 6-0 start to the season.

To start the tournament, Cal faced Tulane on Friday. Contrary to what had been the norm in the first four games of the season, Cal played a strong first quarter to earn a 15-8 lead after 10 minutes of action.

The Bears looked like they studied their opponent well, as they achieved their best assist-turnover ratio so far this season with 19 assists and only 13 turnovers against the Green Wave side that had forced 21 turnovers a game. This was also the first game in which the Bears dished assists more often than they turned over the ball.

Leading the frontcourt, two experienced guards at head coach Lindsey Gottlieb’s disposal, senior Asha Thomas and graduate student Receé Caldwell, provided 14 of the 19 Cal assists. Caldwell had eight assists for her Cal career best, in addition to 8 points, while Thomas displayed a complete performance with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists.

For Cal, this 65-57 win over Tulane was a total team victory, as sophomore guard Kianna Smith complemented her experienced teammates with 16 points, and senior forward Kristine Anigwe continued her double-double streak with 17 points and 10 rebounds in what was one of the humbler performances on her end.

For the Green Wave, freshman guard Dynah Jones’ eye-opening 22 points in 22 minutes off the bench were not enough to salvage a win, as Tulane took its first loss of the season.

The Bears displayed a performance close to what was expected from them with a strong frontcourt presence helping Anigwe in addition to attempting 29 3-point shots, the same number of 2-pointers taken by the Bears.

After a strong win Friday, Cal went to battle against the host team from the University of San Diego in a match similar to Cal’s previous games at the beginning of the season.

After the first half, two sides were tied at 29 apiece.

A strong third quarter, however, facilitated the sixth win of the season for the blue and gold. The Bears ran away with a 22-8 third-quarter score for a 70-53 win to spoil the host team’s Thanksgiving holiday thanks to another monster performance from Anigwe.

While it’s not possible to know what Gottlieb says the team during the halftime breaks of games, it definitely works well for the Bears.

Anigwe recorded her sixth double-double with 25 points and 16 rebounds on 10 of 16 shooting. She was also the only Cal player to score in double digits.

After a great performance handling the ball, the Bears struggled this time with only 12 assists to 12 turnovers.

Shooting efficiency, however, decided the big margin at the end. While both teams struggled behind the arc — the Bears converted only two of eight attempts and the Toreros only managed to hit one of their nine tries from the distance — Cal won the game from the paint.

The Bears scored 24 points in the paint and shot a whopping 56.9 percent from the field, while the Toreros only converted 36.7 percent of their shots.

If the Bears manage to combine the good sides of the two matches with strong frontcourt performances handling the ball and impressive performances from Anigwe, Cal is going to be a team to be reckoned with.

Now, the Bears will take a short break before returning to Haas Pavilion to host California State University, Northridge in front of the home crowd Sunday with one objective in mind — to stay undefeated.

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