Cal women’s basketball’s historic weekend clouded by 2 losses

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Great things sometimes happen in bad times, preventing achievement from being celebrated.

Over the weekend, Cal faithful saw the record books rewritten. Senior Kristine Anigwe became the leading scorer (both men’s and women’s) and rebounder in program history, while fellow senior Asha Thomas broke the record for all-time 3-pointers made in Cal women’s basketball history. The Bears, however, lost against both Oregon and Oregon State, and the new record holders were not in the mood to celebrate after the games.

“These records, legacy — that’s nice,” Thomas said in a calm voice after a long pause, while Anigwe just nodded. “But I think what’s more important is getting these wins.”

Cal (14-9, 5-7 Pac-12) first hosted No. 3 Oregon (23-1, 12-0 Pac-12) on Friday night, and immediately, the Ducks ran out of the gates with the tipoff. As one of the best, if not the best, offensive teams in the nation, Oregon started the game capitalizing on the Bears’ two turnovers for a 12-0 run.

Cal’s first point came from Anigwe on the line as she went 1-2. That one free throw was enough to make Anigwe the leading scorer in Cal basketball history, and head coach Lindsay Gottlieb called a timeout to facilitate a proper celebration (including a video show on the Jumbotron) and perhaps to get the Bears back on track after the slow start.

It seemed to work, as Cal took the first lead of the game at 32-30, but an 11-2 run by the Ducks to finish the half saw Oregon go into the locker room with a 44-36 lead.

The Bears experienced a lot of ups and downs in shooting throughout the game that the Ducks took advantage of. When Cal stopped scoring, that’s when Oregon ran away. This time, an 8-0 run by the Ducks increased the lead to 14, and they never looked back again.

The Bears tried to defeat Oregon on offense, but the Ducks had more in the arsenal after all for a 105-82 win. Cal had one of its better defensive performances, but the defense couldn’t take a break most of the game. Oregon shot 60.3 percent from the field and 60.9 percent behind the arc for an incredible offensive outing that made Cal’s 46.4 percent 3-point shooting night look bad.

Oregon had four players in double digits, led by sophomore forward Satou Sabally, who finished the game with 31 points and nine rebounds, going six of eight behind the arc.

Anigwe had 23 points and 18 rebounds for yet another double-double. Receé Caldwell posted a season-high 22 points and a team-high seven assists, while Kianna Smith added 20 points and shot almost perfect from behind the arc at 5-6.

For comparison, Oregon humbled Stanford with an 88-48 road victory Sunday even though Stanford was coming off a solid 61-44 victory of its own against No. 7 Oregon State (20-4, 10-2 Pac-12).

The Beavers traveled a short way up north to face the Bears on Sunday with only one thing in mind — to bounce back.

With just her third rebound in the game, Anigwe became the leading rebounder in program history, two days after becoming the leading scorer. Anigwe finished the game with 18 rebounds and a game-high 31 points.

Oregon State established an early 9-5 lead, but Jaelyn Brown started the game very aggressively for Cal and, led by her three of four 3-point shooting, the Bears ended the first quarter with a 20-15 lead.

The winds of fortune continued to blow in Cal’s direction at the beginning of the second half after going four for four from the floor and forcing three turnovers to take the lead up to double-digits, 30-19, with seven minutes remaining in the half.

Just like the Oregon game, however, Cal had ups and downs in shooting, and a run by the Beavers cut the lead to just 2 at the end of the first half, 37-35.

“We kind of had spurts of shooting well and not shooting well,” Gottlieb said. “They closed the gap more quickly then we would have wanted to when we had the lead.”

The second half started with lead changes, but a 10-0 run by the Beavers helped them secure a comfortable lead and finish the third quarter with a 59-51 lead.

In the last quarter, Cal faithful saw a strong comeback effort as well as the resurfacing of Thomas to her usual floor presence. Thomas went 0-3 in the first half, 5-21 from the floor and 1-10 behind the arc for a total of 14 points in the three games before the Oregon State matchup. In the second half, Thomas hit five 3-pointers, including three in the last quarter to cut the lead on her way to scoring 15 points and earning the title of all-time leading 3-point shooter in Cal women’s basketball history.

As much as Cal played incredibly in terms of offense in the last quarter, the Bears were as bad on defense, unable to get the necessary defensive stops to upset Oregon State. In the end, the Beavers prevailed for an 82-74 win.

Cal closed out the toughest stretch of the season, playing four top-10 matchups and managing to steal one game. Even though the weekend ended with two losses, the Bears gained a lot of learning experience by going head to head with the top teams in the nation.

“We’re disappointed,” Gottlieb said. “We are not happy to get one out of four.”

Cal will travel to Los Angeles next week while the program’s record books are updated for leading scorer, rebounder and 3-point shooter in favor of Anigwe and Thomas.

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