Haas Pavilion erupted twice Sunday — once when Cal went on a shocking 11-0 run to start the game against Utah, and again at the start of the fourth quarter when the Bears forced three straight turnovers and scored on all three ensuing possessions.
Those two spurts of brilliance were what kept Cal women’s basketball in the game in an 80-75 overtime loss to Utah. Without them, Sunday afternoon might have turned out to be just like Friday night when the team sputtered out in a 73-56 loss to Colorado.
With one minute left, the Bears found themselves down by just 2 points to a Utah team that, on paper, should have taken care of business. Entering the game, the Utes had won four of their last five games, their sole loss coming against No. 2 Stanford last Friday.
With 34 seconds to go, junior guard Leilani McIntosh answered a three from Utah’s Dasia Young with a clutch floater to tie the game at 68. Junior forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt then came up with a block underneath the basket on Utah’s Gianna Kneepkens.
Head coach Charmin Smith gave the referee nearest to her an earful after Lutje Schipholt’s block, arguing that she called a timeout well before the clock hit 1.6 seconds remaining. A failed inbounds play from each side sent the game into overtime.
Down by 1 point with 30 seconds left in OT, a Utah backcourt violation gave Cal life. But McIntosh was controversially called for a foul on a rebound over Kneepkens, and she converted both free throws. A missed jumper from Lutje Schipholt and the subsequent foul from McIntosh on Kneepkens put the game out of reach.
“The message for us was to be resilient and I think we were that,” Smith said. “We continued to fight. There were some mistakes that we couldn’t recover from. Credit to Utah for capitalizing. It was right there.”
In the first quarter against Utah, Smith’s Bears looked like an entirely different basketball team. They came flying out of the gates and ended the period up 22-11. It was as if a flip had been switched sometime after Cal’s miserable performance against Colorado, during which it committed a season-high 23 turnovers.
After the first loss of the weekend, Smith looked exceptionally forlorn.
“We just had points where we weren’t alert. There’s no explanation for it,” Smith said. “In the second half we got away from what was working in terms of getting to the free-throw line and attacking. Their zone had us a little bit passive and playing around the perimeter as well.”
If a flip had switched for Cal in the first period against Utah, it flipped again at the start of the second. By the end of the half, the Bears found themselves down 35-30 after going 3-18 from the field in the second quarter. It seemed as though the Bears couldn’t buy a bucket after shooting lights out through the first 10 minutes.
Against Colorado, Cal did the exact opposite. Down 20-11 and shooting 25% from the field at the end of the first quarter, the Bears turned the game around and found themselves down by just 4 points at the end of the half. But the game quickly got out of hand as the Buffs capitalized on Cal’s mistakes, scoring 25 points off turnovers by the end of the night.
The blue and gold will stay in Berkeley to take on Arizona State this Wednesday at 1 p.m. The Sun Devils are 4-4 in conference play, winning three of their last four. Boise State transfer forward Jade Loville leads the team in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game, and helped ASU to two consecutive ranked wins last week over No. 19 Oregon and No. 6 Arizona.
The Sun Devils are trending upwards just as the Bears seem to have hit an impasse — it’s an unsettling reality for a Cal team that struggles to put together a complete performance.