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Cal 101, Oregon 98: Bears survive overtime insanity

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Where do you start with this one?

Cal scored 101 points even though they turned the ball over 26 times. Cal scored 101 points despite Brittany Boyd barely playing for half of the game due to foul trouble. Cal allowed 98 points despite holding an opponent under 40% shooting.

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The Cal bench ducks as Chrishae Rowe goes plaid

In the first half, it very much looked like the pace of the game got to Cal. The Bears just looked rushed and uncomfortable. They would panic when Oregon ran their sideline trap. They would fumble easy passes. Simple layups were missed because eyes were moving faster than limbs could follow. Oregon wants to make you play their pace, knowing that they're used to it. They can hit those shots, they can make those passes. Other teams don't practice it. The result was a 4 point halftime deficit that would have been worse if Mikayla Lyles hadn't gotten hot from behind the arc.

In the second half, Cal played infinitely better for 18 minutes. Cal stopped the ball on fast breaks, patiently worked it inside, ran when the option was there, and always played within themselves. Thanks mostly to Reshanda Gray, that 4 point deficit turned into an 11 point lead. The Ducks cut into the lead a bit, but with 2:30 left Cal was still up nine and seemingly had completely control of the game.

And then it all went to hell. Cal committed five turnovers and two bad fouls over the final two minutes of the game, all but handling Oregon a free chance to keep the game going. Coach G only had one timeout to play with by this point because she had been using them throughout the game to give Cal's limited rotation a breather in an exhausting game, and as a result Cal didn't have a chance to regroup as things fell apart. Such is the power of a nine point lead so late in the game that even with all those mistakes, the Ducks still had to hit a game-tying shot with seven seconds left.

Thus, overtime. Somehow, by that point, Brittany Boyd was still in the game despite having played for the majority of the 2nd half with four fouls. She was the player that kept the Bears on top, particularly after Reshanda Gray fouled out with a career high 33 points. Boyd hit the biggest shot of the game, an off-balance runner off the glass to break a tie in the final minute, then got the steal on the other end to ice it at the line.

What should you take away from this game? Not a ton. NOBODY in the country plays like Oregon. They test a team in a way nobody else can. More than that, Cal's roster wasn't in a great shape to deal with the questions they ask. Mercedes Jefflo would have been really valuable to have available, and again, Brittany Boyd's foul trouble caused all kinds of issues.

Here's what you CAN take away from this game:

Gennifer Brandon is back!!! I cannot overstate how much of a difference Gen makes on the boards. It's reductive to say that Cal outrebounded Oregon because Gen was back, but Cal did badly outrebound a team that has actually been pulling down boards at a high rate so far this year. Gen looked very rusty in the first half, but she looked very much like her old self in the 2nd half and overtime, and finished a whisker away from a double double despite getting only 22 minutes of gametime. I suspect we'll forget she was ever gone very quickly.

Reshanda Gray is amazing. Duh. But 33 points on 19 shots? Wow. She was more active on the glass than usual and she was the major factor in getting Oregon star Jillian Alleyne in foul trouble, limiting her to 26 minutes. Reshanda clearly benefited from Gennifer Brandon's return.

STOP THE BALL! When Cal successfully stopped Oregon from running free in transition they had tremendous success on defense. Doing so was a major part of their 2nd half surge, and failing to do so was a major part of Oregon's last minute comeback. Cal's defense was pretty decent in total despite the inflating point total. But to oversimplify: Ball stopped = great defense. Ball not stopped = bad defense.

Three point shooting regresses to the mean. Cal finished the game 6-12 from behind the arc, and they quite obviously needed every one of those points. For the 2nd straight game, the Bears won in part because they outshot their opponent from deep. There was ZERO reason to expect Cal to continue to be so abjectly bad from three, and sure enough everything is evening out. Big ups to Mikayla for a 4-4 performance.

This team will look much deeper next week. Mercedes Jefflo will be back and Gennifer Brandon will be more integrated into the lineup. All of a sudden, Coach Gottlieb will have somewhere in the range of 10 players she can trust with major minutes, after having as few as 7 at times this year due to injuries. The absence of Gennifer Brandon, Kyra Dunn, and Justine Hartman has in a way been a blessing, because Cal's freshmen have gotten a ton of playing time that they wouldn't necessarily have gotten otherwise. And Cal will need all of that depth when they head up to the altitude of Utah and Colorado next week.

Courtney Range slowly harnessing her power. Range had one of her better games as a Bear with 12 points on 6-9 shooting. She didn't force anything and multiple times took the ball on a long rebound or outlet and went the length of the court for a lay-in (nobody stopped the ball!). With Brandon back she'll be able to spend more time at the 3, and there will be less pressure on her to score. She'll be able to pick her spots and still poor in the rebounds (13 more today).

Phew. That was exhausting. But the Bears held on for two tough home wins. We're set up for a big challenge in Colorado next Friday against the Buffs. Bring it on!