The Oregon Ducks made a big splash in Haas Pavilion on Sunday, shooting 46% from the field and collecting a season-best 14 triples to trounce the Bears 88-53 and hand them their second Pac-12 loss.
The contest was seemingly over right as it began. In the opening five minutes, Oregon forced three turnovers and drained a flurry of triples to race out to a 16-2 lead. Its performance resembled a 3-point shooting clinic, as taught by 6’2” sophomore guard Sydney Parrish, who bombarded the Bears with her career-high 7-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Te-Hina Paopao, a 5’9” sophomore guard, also had the hot hand, supplying 21 points on 8-13 shooting from the field and 4-5 shooting from 3-point land.
Despite a viable effort from 5’11 junior guard Jazlen Green, who knocked in a pair of 3s to halt the Ducks’ scoring run, Cal was buried in a 50-27 deficit by the intermission.
“We started poorly and missed some good looks that dug us in a hole really early on, and for some reason, we sagged off of Parrish and gave her looks early on that she really wasn’t supposed to have,” said Cal head coach Charmin Smith. “It was just too much to recover from once she got into a groove.”
The methodical court spacing and unselfish ball movement in Oregon’s small ball lineup, adjusted to the absence of 6’7” star forward Sedona Prince, was reminiscent of the well-rounded style of play of the 2018-19 Final Four Oregon team led by Sabrina Ionescu. Smooth, patient offensive sets produced quality, wide open looks for the Ducks, who proved just how well they can share the basketball. Redshirt 6’5” junior forward Nyara Sabally led the team with five assists, but her spread-the-wealth attitude was infectious, as nine different Ducks got on the board with an assist. Oregon tallied 21 assists on 32 made field goals — something Cal should look to emulate as the season moves forward.
As if the Ducks’ offensive prowess was not already enough to bury the Bears to the point of no return, they also destroyed Cal on the glass, out-rebounding the blue and gold 45-34, including 18 offensive boards to produce extra possessions and second-chance buckets. Missing sophomore forward Dalayah Daniels, who did not play, and with junior forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt playing limited first-half minutes with foul trouble, sophomore Michelle Onyiah picked up some valuable minutes, joining graduate transfer Jadyn Bush in the battle on the low block, yet the pair combined for just six rebounds.
While Oregon shot the lights out, Cal did just the opposite. The Bears finished the contest shooting a miserable 29% (15-51) from the field and found the bottom of the net on just three of 12 3-point attempts. Further, the blue and gold were pounded by the Ducks’ cohesive interior defense, and converted just eight of 22 lay-up attempts.
The sole glimmer of hope amid Cal’s scoring woes was found at the charity stripe, as the Bears knocked down 20 of 26 free-throw attempts. Cal’s point guard and leading scorer Jayda Curry, who returned to the court after an undisclosed health absence, was held to just 13 points for the game, but nevertheless remained aggressive in driving to the hoop, getting to the line on a game-high six occasions.
From a beautiful floater finish on a drive into the lane by junior guard Leilani McIntosh to begin the third quarter, to a perfect inbounds play execution resulting in an easy layup by sophomore center Fatou Samb, Cal women’s basketball was not without its few shining moments to remind viewers of the potential within this program. So while Sunday’s contest brought out some of the worst in Cal, struggling to rebound and defend the 3-point line, the Bears still possess plenty of talent and the prospect of improvement remains on the horizon. The problem that needs to be addressed is shaping up to be that the blue and gold cannot find a consistent rhythm.
“The message to the team was just that we need to be better with the things that we can control. One of them being those wide open looks for Parrish, not grabbing balls, not boxing out, just those little things. We are really good in spurts, but we are not consistently good with anything, and we need consistency,” Smith said.
In reflecting on Cal’s first two Pac-12 matchups, it is clear that Washington State and Oregon each have a plethora of weapons and played solid team basketball, but the Bears did not need to bury themselves by embarrassing margins of 27 and 35 points. Looking ahead to their Pac-12 roadtrip against Utah and Colorado this week, the blue and gold must focus on defending the three — as they have allowed 25 triples in the last two contests — and on asserting themselves in the battle for rebounds. While the remainder of league play will likely be tough sledding, Cal is capable of making adjustments to be respectable, if not competitive.
Jane Kenny covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].