With high expectations entering the home opener, Cal commanded the game against CSUN. Despite the lopsided final score, Haas Pavilion has yet to see the Bears play to the best of their abilities: They shot less than 50% on field goals and made less than a third of the 3-pointers attempted. However, they still found a way to dominate.
Trailing 6-3, the Bears grabbed their first lead of the game with a Kemery Martín two-pointer and a pair of free-throws made by Leilani McIntosh. Cal would not trail again for the remainder of the contest.
CSUN’s Ana Carolina De Jesus and Tess Amundsen kept the score close with Cal leading 17-13 at the end of the first period. De Jesus was off to a hot start, shooting 3-3 on field goals while Amundsen sank a three to get her team within reach.
A no-look pass from Mia Mastrov to McIntosh got the ball rolling for the Bears, as McIntosh nailed her second triple of the game. Claudia Langarita and Jayda Curry continued to fuel the momentum, fighting through traffic in the paint to score, topped off by a Curry floater as the shot clock expired.
“I think we have established that (McIntosh) is an offensive threat,” said head coach Charmin Smith. “I think she has just really embraced that and has a lot of confidence. And I think you have seen that building over the years.”
McIntosh again displayed her menacing offensive abilities, falling away from the basket for the and-one. At the end of the half, the Bears started to find their groove and established a commanding 10-point lead.
Evelien Lutje Schipholt took over at the beginning of the third period, grabbing rebounds to score put-backs and cutting to the basket for a layup as she fell to the baseline. Lutje Schipholt’s commanding stretch allowed Cal to gain control, setting her teammates up for a scoring frenzy in the following minutes.
“The spacing is great. It took a second for us for it to click a little bit, we are still not perfect on it but I really like the spacing and cutting and passing that we’ve gone over now,” Lutje Schipholt said.
Ugonne Onyiah posted up the defender for the basket, setting up 3-pointers by Martin, Curry and Mastrov to put the Bears up by 20 points. To add an exclamation point at the end of the third, McIntosh launched a shot from half court at the buzzer, drilling the 47-footer to tack on 3 more points going into the final period.
“I have a pregame kind of ritual where I go through and do half-court shots with (Ornela Muca) I was surprised I made it too. I just kind of threw it up there,” McIntosh said.
Karisma Ortiz kept the offensive pressure going — landing a triple to extend Cal’s lead by 30 points. CSUN responded with an athletic drive from Amundsen for the and-one, but the Bears did not take their foot off the gas.
Sela Heide entered the game and made an immediate impact, scoring two baskets on back-to-back possessions and executing two defensive blocks. Freshman Amaya Bonner scored a smooth mid-air putback, and Ornela Muca capped off the scoring with a three-ball of her own, finalizing the score 86-56.
“We were ripping the balls away from them, (Heide) comes in and rips it away from them, that’s just like the toughness that you need to have to compete in the Pac-12,” coach Smith said.
With the players at center court and coach Smith on the microphone, the audience cheered once more as the team celebrated their opening night victory. Cal celebrates this win, understanding the difficult task ahead as the Bears travel to play Notre Dame in hopes of bringing the same energy they did against CSUN to the Citi Shamrock Classic.