Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The statistic of the game: Points Off Turnovers, California 30, Utah 5.
It was the most exciting 17-point basketball game I have ever seen. And it may well have been the most exciting defensive performance I have ever seen. The Bears were playing without the best rebounder in the country and the reigning National Player of the Week, Gennifer Brandon, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. And the team struggled a bit in the first half.
We were distressed to see National Player of the Week Gennifer Brandon (center) on the bench with her right foot in a boot contraption.
Coach Lindsay Gottlieb changed things up in the second half, playing with four guards (from among Layshia Clarendon, Brittany Boyd, Afure Jemerigbe, Eliza Pierre, and Mikayla Lyles), and one post, primarily Reshanda Gray. With this line-up the Bears pressed and pressed and pressed. And the Utes turned the ball over and over and over. It got to the point where the Utes hadn't gotten the ball across the mid-court line in so long that my nephew and his friend started joking that the Utah players had gotten confused and thought this was supposed to be a half-court game.
It's impossible to say who was the player of the game. Layshia Clarendon was even more brilliant than usual. She hit 11 of her 15 shots, for 23 points. She added 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and an invaluable 4 steals. Reshanda Gray was equally brilliant with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Equally important, although Gray has struggled at the free throw line, against Utah she was 7-7. And Eliza Pierre was just as outstanding. She played brilliant defense, as always. But she also grabbed her season-high 8 rebounds, despite usually being the shortest player on the floor. She added 5 points, including an important 3 in the first half.
But, enough talk. Watch some videos, instead. Here, in the first half, Mikayla Lyles forces the turnover, which Layshia Clarendon turns into 2 points:
And here, Eliza Pierre snags the defensive rebound, which eventually leads to Reshanda Gray grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring:
In the second half, Layshia Clarendon nails a jumper just as the shot clock is about to expire:
Reshanda Gray seemed to be channeling her inner Gen Brandon by bunching up the front of her shorts the way Brandon always does.
It seemed to work, as Gray had a great rebounding afternoon. Here she grabs the offensive rebound and puts it back for the score:
Unfortunately for you, I did not get a whole lot of Cal's spectacular defensive run on video. I was far too busy yelling and cheering and jumping up and down to take video. But here is a little taste. After a Cal score, Layshia Clarendon steals a pass and scores again:
Here, Eliza Pierre gets the offensive rebound, and makes a great pass to Reshanda Gray, who scores. Then the Bears show a little of the swarming defense that was so successful in the is game. However, on this play, late in the game and with a big lead, the Bears backed off a bit and the Utes did finally manage to score.
As the game winds down, the crowd informs the whole damn world that this is Bear Territory, and Talia Caldwell draws a foul.
And then the Bears Win!
One of my companions was the niece of my nephew's friend (is that confusing enough for you?). She caught one of the balls the players threw to the crowd before the game, and also managed to catch one of the free t-shirts thrown to the crowd during a time out (how's that for luck?). So we had to go through all the post-game autograph lines to get these items duly signed. I told a couple of the players that I thought they were going to give me a heart attack in the last few games (the tension-filled wins over USC and Colorado). Mikayla Lyles said she wished she had a dime for everyone who had told her that in the last few days (too bad the NCAA would never let her keep any of those dimes!). And Layshia Clarendon showed me a little package of mints to which a fan had added a blue and gold label stating: "Nitroglycerin Tablets: to be taken when the Bears give you heart failure." Clarendon said she was glad the team was able to give us all a bit of relief from the tension with a 17-point win. But, as I said at the start: it was the most exciting 17-point win I have ever seen.