What is Utah known for? Mountains? Skiing? The state where your estranged Aunt Maureen moved to 30 years ago to pursue a career in spelunking?
If you’re a Cal women’s basketball fan, Utah can now be the state where the Bears (10-15, 2-12) earned their second win in conference play against the Utes (12-13, 5-9) thanks to an extraordinary offensive display. This was a much-needed win for the Bears, who, heading into Sunday’s game, were riding a three-game losing streak.
In an atypical first half showing, Cal came out strong and maintained a lead for the vast majority of the game. The Utes regrouped at half time and outscored the Bears 24 -16 in the third quarter to cut the Bears’ lead to four heading into the fourth quarter.
Cal dug deep in the last period and eventually pulled away, with a final score of 88-74. The Bears’ 88 points are by far the most they’ve scored in any conference game this season.
Freshman guard Cailyn Crocker was the woman of the hour, finishing with a career-high 26 points after erupting for 20 in the second half.
This was Crocker’s first start of her short collegiate career, and certainly won’t be her last. The youngster, who has shown continuous growth since her first game in a Cal uniform in November, is quickly becoming a star on a team that has lacked an established leader.
Junior forward Alaysia Styles and freshman guard Jazlen Green also put on a show against the Utes, scoring 16 and 14 in the first half, respectively. They were quickly mitigated, however, as Utah managed to slow both of them down in the second half. Styles finished with 19 points, a new season high, and Green with 17.
Getting more players involved in scoring has been one of the many challenges head coach Charmin Smith has had to deal with all season. Over the last few games, it seems that those questions about where offensive production would come from have been answered. Styles, Green, Crocker and freshman guard Leilani McIntosh have all come alive in recent weeks to support the inconsistent yet vital production from senior forward and the Bears’ leading scorer, Jaelyn Brown.
It was a mixed bag for the blue and gold on the other side of the ball. In the first matchup of the season between Cal and Utah in late January, Utah freshman guard Brynna Maxwell scored a season-high 27 points. The Bears managed to do marginally better at keeping Maxwell at bay this time around, allowing only 19 points against the Utes’ leading scorer.
Cal did struggle to stop sophomore guard and unexpected weapon Dru Gylten. The South Dakotan, who was averaging 5.6 points per game heading into Sunday afternoon’s game, caught fire against the Bears, scoring a season-high 21 points.
Despite a few explosive performances, Cal managed to pull one out against Utah in large part because they defended the three-ball well. The Utes averaged 8.4 made threes per game before Sunday’s game, which was second among Pac-12 teams and 19th nationally. Against Cal, Utah shot only 6-19 from beyond the arc, including 1-8 in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, Cal’s second conference victory can be attributed to a remarkable offensive performance that saw four players finish in double figures. The Bears ranked second to last in Pac-12 play heading into Sunday’s matchup in points per game, averaging a measly 61.2. Putting up 88 points against a solid Utah defense will certainly improve the Bears’ confidence moving forward.
Recent results have not been reflective of increasingly positive performances from Smith’s team. After losing to UCLA by four in overtime, the Bears have been hungry for a confidence-boosting win. They finally got what they’ve been looking for.
And in Utah, of all places.
William Cooke covers women’s basketball. Contact him at