In three years, Lindsay Gottlieb had lost just two games to Pac-12 teams outside the state of California. One was to a ranked-at-the-time Arizona State team on the road this January. The other was to Washington last week with three players missing all or part of the game with injuries.
The 3rd came today, and few were expecting it.
Statistically speaking, that was the single worst game of defense the Bears have played all year. Only Stanford scored more points/possession against our Bears than the Cougars did in the Key Arena. Washington State has only scored more efficiently three times, and two of those games came against Paul Westhead and the Ducks, a team that doesn't believe in stopping teams from scoring as a matter of basic policy.
What was wrong defensively? Hell if I know. Cal didn't deal with the basics very well. The Bears struggled with high screens, the struggled to stay in front of their assignments one on one, and they struggled to disrupt anything that Washington State ran.
It's true that the Cougars shot the ball much better than you would expect for a team that is merely average offensively relative to the rest of their conference peers. But the Bears made it too easy on them and they took full advantage. Tia Presley, Lia Galdeira and Sage Romberg consistently got the looks they wanted, whether they were at the bucket or behind the 3 point line, and they rarely missed.
Cal's offense was comparatively fine, although there were cold stretches in the 2nd half. Still, Cal will always have cold stretches - they just couldn't force Wazzu to ever go cold. Reshanda Gray again had an excellent scoring game against the Cougars, but also struggled with foul trouble and didn't control the boards in quite the way she's capable of.
This might have been the worst game of the season for Brittany Boyd. She again struggled to make shots, but unlike many other games when that happened, she was unable to meaningfully control the game in other areas. Her passing was off and she struggled to disrupt Washington State's offense. Her night ended early when she picked up two very silly fouls in an attempt to draw two charges when Cal started full court pressing.
First, a quick word on the officiating: The first half was one of the worst 20 minutes of reffing I have ever seen. Here are just four examples:
1. Brittany Boyd drives the baseline. She whips a pass to the perimeter as a Cougar comes in late to undercut her. Somehow it's a charge, her 2nd of the half. That's a HUGE call in terms of leverage because it takes away Boyd's ability to gamble on defense (in addition to costing Cal a chance to score on that possession). I'd be irate about this if Boyd's last two fouls weren't so completely obvious and unnecessary.
2. Cal is inbounding. Boyd tosses a soft pass to Reshanda Gray, who climbs over Mariah Cook to grab the ball before shooting a short jumper. For the entire time, Cook is standing completely motionless with her arms straight up in the air. She is called for a foul.
3. WSU misses a shot, and Mercedes Jefflo is right there on the baseline for the defensive board. An overzealous Cougar clatters into her from behind, and Jefflo fumbles the ball out of bounds. Somehow, no call for the loose ball foul. WSU hits a 3 on the ensuing inbound play.
4. Gennifer Brandon stumbles while driving, and takes FOUR steps with the ball before fumbling it away. WSU doesn't touch the ball until it's out of Gen's hands, and they never actually possess it. The refs inexplicably call a jump ball, and Jemerigbe hits a long 2 on Cal's gift of a possession.
Those were just the calls that jumped out at me. There were others, of course. They didn't impact the winner, in part because WSU outplayed the Bears so badly. I just felt the need to vent about this because I've been watching bad reffing for so long, and I was really hoping that Larry Scott would have done something to improve the situation by now. Alas.
And so, for the 2nd straight year Cal has been bounced in Seattle earlier than they expected in an ugly blowout loss. Luckily Cal will still hear their name called on Selection Sunday. How much will this loss (and a loss to Washington last week) impact their seed? I don't know. I'm hoping for a 6, but wouldn't be shocked by a 7. We'll have to wait nine days to find out where the Bears are heading, and another week until the games start. That's 15 or 16 days to work in practice and try to figure out exactly what went wrong defensively against the Cougars.