After a heartbreaking loss on Friday, the Bears had an opportunity to bounce back against Washington State. Cal hoped to come out strong, but instead came out half asleep, and ended an embarrassing first quarter down 31-6. The Bears closed the deficit later in the game, but their devastating start allowed the Cougars to comfortably cruise to a 96-75 victory.
The first quarter was a study in contrasts, as the Bears went completely cold while the Cougars couldn’t miss. Each team had 16 shots from the field in the first quarter. The Cougars scored 13 of those shots at an incredible 81% pace, while the Bears went 2-16, shooting a brutal 12.5%. That one stat defined the course of the game and buried any chance Cal had at mounting a comeback.
“We ran into something, boy in that first quarter. I’m still trying to figure out what it was,” said Cal head coach Charmin Smith. “It was a rough start for us and on the other end for us offensively, we couldn’t buy a bucket. So, I think we dug ourselves a hole that was a little bit too big to get out of.”
The onslaught continued in the second quarter and at their worst, the Bears were down 36 points, trailing 50-14 with 3:56 to go in the half. The Bears were able to close the gap a little after that, as they went on a 15-4 run into the break, capped by a buzzer beating three from Cailyn Crocker.
Cal continued its push in the third quarter, opening the half on a 10-0 run, and managing to close the 36-point deficit down to 13. Turnovers and a resurgence from the Cougars prevented the Bears from getting any closer, but Cal deserves credit for continuing to fight when it could have rolled over completely.
Washington State easily secured its 96-75 victory but Cal’s resilience after an awful start was at least one positive take away from the game.
“I mean, we’re just playing for each other at this point,” said senior Jaelyn Brown “We get into the huddle. We’re all talking about here we go, we got this, it’s continued talk, it’s continue to just be there for each other the whole time.”
Brown had another solid game for the Bears, leading the team in scoring with 20 points. Freshman Evelien Lutje Schipholt had a stellar outing as well, with 15 points and 8 rebounds, showing some of her potential.
“These games are tough, but you learn a lot from them,” Schipholt said. “We try to stay together and just be better for the future and continue to work for each other, because we’re a family and that’s what it’s all about.”
As good as these players were, they couldn’t keep up with the dynamic duo that led the Cougars all night. Borislava Hristova broke WSU’s all-time scoring record with her dominant 26-point performance. It was point guard Chanelle Molina who really tore the Bears up, however, as she dominated the first quarter en route to 28 points on 12-16 shooting.
“It was a rough, a rough start and Molina, she’s a special player. She’s really, really good. I have a lot of respect for her and she showed why. Particularly in that first quarter,” Smith said.
Smith was happy with the efforts Cal showed after the tough start. “(I’m) still proud of the fight in the team and the fact that we did either stay even or outscore them in the remaining quarters and just stuck together through a really tough time,” Smith said.
Still, there are some common themes that have plagued the Bears in their first two losses in Pac-12 play. Each time they’ve been doomed by a slow start and the inability to stop the opposing team’s star guard — Amber Melgoza scored a season-high 31 points against the Bears on Friday and the Huskies jumped out to a 36-24 lead at the half.
It won’t get any easier from here as the blue and gold’s next four games are all against teams ranked in the top five in the nation, and each are legitimate national title contenders. After an 0-2 opening weekend, Cal may face a harsh reality about where they stand in the Pac-12 on its tough, upcoming road trip.
That stretch begins Friday at 7 p.m. in Maples Pavilion against Charmin Smith’s alma mater, Stanford.
Benjamin Coleman covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].