Cal women’s basketball eases its way against Washington State for bounce-back win

Lorenzo Dela Cruz/File

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Home sweet home.

Cal women’s basketball bounced back from its losing streak with a 77-63 win over Washington State after a road trip to the desert that the Bears would want to leave behind as fast as possible.

After two straight losses to Arizona and No. 19 Arizona State and five losses in six games, Cal needed a breather, and a dominant performance led by senior center Kristine Anigwe gave the Bears just that.

In front of more than 3,000 kids from Bay Area schools there for the annual School Haas Rock game, Cal (11-5, 2-3) rolled out to a 14-9 lead at the end of a low-scoring first quarter and never looked back. The Bears ended the quarter with a 10-2 run.

Cal saw its biggest lead, of 23 points, with 2:24 remaining in the game, but a 9-0 run by Washington State (7-10, 2-4) to end the game had the scoreboard showing 77-63 at the end of 40 minutes.

Anigwe posted her second 20-20 game of the season, as she complemented her game-high 29 points with a season-high 23 rebounds. Cal finished the game with a whopping 45-32 rebounding advantage on the boards, as the Cougars couldn’t find an answer to Anigwe. At one point in the third quarter, Anigwe battled for two offensive rebounds and finally made the basket for an and-one.

It’s safe to say head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s plan to take advantage of the Cougars’ weak paint worked perfectly.

Washington State’s best rebounder in the game was 5’9” guard Chanelle Molina, with seven rebounds. Molina was also the second-highest scorer for the Cougars, with 13 points.

Both teams were subpar on offense, making more turnovers than assists — Washington State dished nine assists to 10 turnovers. No one shined as the leader, as no Cougar had more than two assists in the game, while Molina had five turnovers. Cal, on the other hand, recorded 10 assists to 11 turnovers, but Receé Caldwell led the winning offense with five assists and only two turnovers.

Caldwell was one of the four Bears in double digits, with 10 points, as Asha Thomas and Jaelyn Brown poured in 13 and 12, respectively.

Washington State had a good shooting night behind the 3-point line, sinking 43 percent of its attempts, but the Cougars struggled from closer, for 39 percent from the field. The Cougars’ leading scorer, Borislava Hristova, had another good night as she recorded a team-high 21 points, just shy of her 21.9 points per game average coming into the matchup, which ranked her eighth in the nation for scoring and just one place above Cal’s own Anigwe.

The Bears shot 36 percent behind the arc but only attempted 11 shots, although 45 percent from the field was more than enough for the win.

This game marked the second-straight game Cal that attempted 11 3-pointers, the team’s second-lowest mark of the season. The Bears came into the season looking to cause trouble behind the arc with Thomas, Caldwell and McKenzie Forbes, as teams try to double-team Anigwe on the post. They haven’t yet found their stride there, however, as Cal only finds the net 31.4 percent of the time from behind the arc.

It’s normal to see more shots down low against opponents since Anigwe can wreak havoc there, but the Bears will need to find a consistent shot in order to not rely on monster performances by their star center night in and night out.

Can Sariöz is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @can_sarioz.