Cal Brings in big wins over SDSU and No. 20 Arkansas

Sam Albillo/Staff

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Cal Women’s Basketball brought in two big wins this week over the San Diego State Aztecs and Arkansas Razorbacks. First the Bears won big literally, dominating SDSU en route to a 74-48 blowout. Then they won big metaphorically — pulling off a critical upset of No. 20 Arkansas in an 84-80 thriller.

Led by standout performances from senior Jaelyn Brown, these huge wins are an important step in ensuring the future success of the team this year.

The Bears secured their first road win of the season Thursday, knocking off San Diego State in Viejas Arena. The win started with domination on the glass, and the Bears outrebounded the Aztecs 44-30 and outscored SDSU 23-4 on second chance points. The defense came to play too, holding the Aztecs to just 48 points — the least the Bears have allowed this season.

Success with defense and rebounding transitioned to efficient scoring for the Bears, with three players in double figures. Senior CJ West notched 10 points, while San Diego native Alaysia Styles put up a career-high 17 points in her homecoming. Cal’s leading scorer was Brown, with a game-high of 18 points. Brown outdid herself the very next game with an incredible performance against Arkansas.

The Bears battled the Razorbacks Sunday afternoon in Haas Pavilion. Arkansas entered the matchup undefeated (5-0), led by guard Chelsea Dungee, who once again stood out in this game with a team high 24 points. The Razorbacks had three other players scoring in double figures as well, and gave the Bears a very difficult test.

The Razorbacks jumped out to a 7-2 lead, but the Bears pushed back, riding a strong second quarter — outscoring the Razorbacks 27-14 — to go into halftime with the lead. A key reason for this is that once again the Bears were able to control rebounds.

“Charmin is always on us to box out and crash hard. We had inspiration and help from all our teammates,” said CJ West, who put up a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) on the night.

“Everyone was crashing hard and brought a lot of energy. That just inspires you to work hard every possession.”

The big story of the second quarter, however, was Jaelyn Brown, who put up an astounding 15 points in the period, part of her career-high 30-point night. She added 12 rebounds over the course of the game. For her efforts in these past two games she was named the Pac-12 and ESPN national player of the week.

The game went back and forth until the very end — with the Razorbacks holding a slight 78-77 lead with only a few minutes to go. The Bears responded with a bucket from West and a three from Brown, giving Cal a two-possession lead. Arkansas rallied with a basket of its own, but Cal freshman Cailyn Crocker hit two clutch free throws to seal the deal.

“We stuck with it and just refused to lose,” said Cal head coach Charmin Smith. “This was a great win for the program. I think this is a big confidence booster for us moving forward.”

After starting the season with two losses on a tough East Coast road trip, the Bears are now riding a three-game win streak and will look to carry that momentum into the Cal Classic Tournament. This tournament features North Carolina Central, Penn State and Long Beach State, in addition to Cal. The Bears will kick off the tournament Friday at 1 p.m. in Haas Pavilion against North Carolina Central.

Benjamin Coleman covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].