Cal entered Seattle winless in conference play — zero wins, nine losses. After the Bears suffered a devastating collapse in the second half, it looked like they would suffer another heartbreaking loss en route to their 10th Pac-12 loss of the season. Instead, they dominated the overtime period, earning their first win of Pac-12 play.
Cal women’s basketball looked like a completely different team opening Sunday’s matinee game. The blue and gold were up 39-22 at the half and led for much of the game. For a while it looked like Cal would cruise to victory. In the second hal, however, the Cal team that opened Pac-12 play 0-9 reared its ugly head. Outscored 45 to 28 in the second half, the Bears suffered a devastating collapse, as Washington closed the fourth quarter on a 16-3 run to send the game to overtime.
With Washington seemingly on the front foot at the end of regulation, this game looked like it would turn into another heartbreaking loss for the Bears. Instead, Cal came out of the break flying — using a 10-2 opening run to control the overtime period, and secure its first win in conference.
A historically awful start left Cal buried in the basement of the Pac-12 standings, sitting without a win halfway through conference play. It’s clear that morale was low, and the winless streak was a dark cloud hanging over the team. Getting this first win in Pac-12 play could be the turning point for Cal’s season, as it looks to salvage a year that looked to be lost.
“It’s great to get that monkey off our back and get into the win column,” said Cal head coach Charmin Smith. “We’ve been fighting and working really hard, and I wanted this really bad for our players. We’ve felt good about who we are, and our chemistry and our culture, but winning makes a difference. I’m really proud of how we fought today and that should hopefully give us a boost as we head into the final eight games of Pac-12 play.”
The Bears were led by their upperclassmen, using their experience to bring home a win. CJ West dropped a career-high 22 points to go along with 9 rebounds in a dominating performance just days after being out with a concussion. Fellow senior Jaelyn Brown, Cal’s leading scorer this season, had another solid game for the Bears to support West’s career night. She posted another double-double, with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Alaysia Styles completed the Bears trifecta of double-digit scorers. She scored an efficient 17 points on 8-11 shooting from the field.
These veterans helped Cal control the first half with hot streaks to open the first two quarters. The Bears started the game on a 9-3 run, then continued with a 9-0 run in the second quarter to stay in control.
The Bears looked to be in complete control, and all signs pointed to them being able to cruise to a win. The Huskies would not go down without a fight, however.
Star guard Amber Melgoza posted a game-high 35 points to claw the Huskies back into the game in the second half. The Bears looked like they would fold, as Washington mounted a furious run to tie the game at the end of the fourth quarter. Instead, the Bears fought back in a game that could define their season.
Cal is back in action this weekend with a homestand against USC and No. 9 UCLA. Now that they’ve got their first win, the Bears will be looking for more.
Benjamin Coleman covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].