Evelien Lutje Schipholt is listed as a forward, but she’s also capable of giving Cal quality minutes at center. It’s extremely impressive to watch her play two different positions at a high level, but it’s not unprecedented for a 6’2” player to take on that role.
Barely anyone expected to see her win a game by playing wide receiver.
The Bears took a trip down to Southern California last week to face USC and UCLA. They entered having lost their first three conference games, and looked to finally get on the scoreboard in the Pac-12. They accomplished this goal with a thrilling 62-59 victory over the Trojans that culminated in a bizarre play, where a Julio Jones-esque reception by Lutje Schipholt led to a dagger three by Leilani McIntosh.
However, they were not able to take this momentum with them down Interstate 10, and fell 54-59 to the Bruins in Westwood. But despite breaking even in the standings, the Bears left Los Angeles with their best moment of the season.
USC and Cal both could have easily won Friday night. They played each other evenly, with virtually identical offensive efficiency. The game featured 10 lead changes, with four in the final period. It was the type of game that would come down to one team making the big play and the other falling short. Tied up with nine seconds left on the clock, Cal was the former.
For the final possession of regulation, head coach Charmin Smith called a timeout to draw up a play. She called for a lob to Evelien Lutje Schipholt. It worked in getting Schipholt open near the basket, but the pass was too high in the air. She wouldn’t be able to take a shot, but she could prevent it from going out of bounds. Leaping into the air and corralling the ball with her fingertips, she was dangerously close to the boundary line. But with one foot still on the ground, Lutje Schipholt was able to find an open pass moments before the other came down.
McIntosh was open in the corner. After the game, she laughed while explaining how she wasn’t supposed to shoot.
“I had no intention of taking that shot, especially after the quiet second half I had. I thought Evelien was going to get the lob, because she was wide open. Then all of a sudden, she was falling out of bounds,” McIntosh said.
She looked toward her teammate Jazlen Green on the wing, who was calling for the ball. She almost passed. But at the last second, McIntosh realized that Trojan forward Jordan Sanders was jumping into the passing lane. So instead, she pump-faked. Sanders jumped into the air nowhere near McIntosh. In fact, nobody was near McIntosh. She was wide open to take a corner three.
“I shot it with confidence. It felt good.”
Bottoms. Cal wins by three.
Every win counts the same, but not every win feels the same. After the Bears dominated nonconference play, their surprise season was seemingly coming back to reality. On Friday, they had to battle for 40 minutes against a scrappy, tough Trojans team. Smith pointed out how the Bears answered after every big shot by USC. They refused to give up any momentum. And when the dust settled, Troy had been sacked.
Cal ended up suffering a painfully close loss to UCLA two days later — its record dropped to 1-4 against Pac-12 teams. On paper, the average fan of the blue and gold shouldn’t be too optimistic. But even in defeat, this underdog team made the Bruins fight like hell for 40 minutes. They played hard defense and played unselfishly. But even if they play like that every night, they’ll probably still lose some games in such a competitive conference.
After the USC win, Smith said that the biggest play of the night wasn’t even McIntosh’s shot. Instead, she pointed to her defensive stand on Jordyn Jenkins a few seconds earlier. Jenkins is a sophomore forward who had an excellent game, scoring 26 points. In the final minute, the 6’2” Jenkins posted up Cal’s point guard. McIntosh may only be 5’5” but she didn’t give up an inch. Jenkins couldn’t get off a good shot and the game remained tied.
That play is the perfect representation of these Bears. They will enter most of their interconference games as underdogs on paper. But when face-to-face with their opponent, they never back down.