Thanks for the ride Bears! See you next season!
A magical tournament journey - one for the history books - has come to an end a game shy of its destination.
Freshman Kristine Anigwe recorded a double-double (26 points, 15 rebounds) and Courtney Range nearly posted one of her own (17 points, 9 rebounds) but the No. 10 seed California women's basketball team concluded its run in the Pac-12 Tournament with a 73-67 overtime loss to No. 3 seed UCLA Friday evening at KeyArena.
Cal (15-17) led wire-to-wire in the first half, leading by as many as 14 points (21-7) late in the first quarter. While the Bears could not match its tournament-record 69 percent shooting from the quarterfinals, Cal still managed a strong 47.8 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes while its defensive scheme forced UCLA (24-7) to go 9-of-31 (29 percent) from the field in the first half.
The Bears took a 32-27 lead into the second half and led by as many as eight (44-36) at the halfway point of the third quarter but UCLA managed to cut the Bears' lead down to one (47-46) before the end of the period.
A score by UCLA's Monique Billings at the 9:46 mark of the fourth quarter completed a 12-3 run for the Bruins and put Cal behind for the first time in the game. UCLA would go ahead by three (56-53) with 3:20 remaining but the Bears would fight back - as they have throughout the tournament.
Anigwe scored four points and made a key defensive spot in an 8-2 run that gave a 61-58 advantage to the Bears with 28 seconds to go.
However, after Cal missed a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left, the Bruins' Kari Korver hit a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 61-61. Korver was fouled on the shot but missed the ensuing free throw, giving the Bears a final chance to take the game. Cal called a timeout with seven seconds left but the Bears' last shot, a three pointer by freshman Asha Thomas, couldn't find the basket.
In overtime, the grind of the underdog's journey seemed to finally take its toll. Sophomore Mikayla Cowling scored the first points of the extra period but UCLA would score twice as many points as the Bears (12-6) and force Cal into 2-of-12 shooting over the last five minutes.
ICYMI from yesterday...
What a week this has been for the Cal women's basketball team! The win over Utah was satisfying enough, but to beat Arizona State? To have almost the entire game on my phone while in Arizona enjoying an A's Spring Training game and no one gave me any sexist comments on women's basketball? Such a great experience! But like I said yesterday... we're not done.
The great news is, the win over Arizona State is a great lifting moment for the Women's Basketball program, the players (especially the freshmen) and the fans who can now have something really positive to think about for next season...
The bad news is, short-term wise, we still have a losing record and a loss today will probably end the season, barring a WBI (Women's equivalent of the CBI) bid. I wish the WNIT could consider the Bears, who have had a monster schedule and yet have a bunch of quality wins. However, as I said yesterday, I did confirm a .500 record is required to be accepted into that tourney.
But the Bears are playing with a major sense of urgency, and the result are an OT winner against Utah and a dominant win over the Pac-12 co-champions. Now, if we want to be a little negative. Utah is about Cal's equal and luck just wasn't on their side at Haas or Salt Lake City, and losing all 3 match-ups were very unlikely. Arizona State is going to have home games in the NCAA Tournament regardless, so they may not have had any sense of urgency...
UCLA on the other hand, is a #3 seed according to ESPN's Bracketologist Charlie Creme. Hard to think a loss to Cal would slip them to a #5 seed, which is the difference between the First 2 rounds at Pauley Pavilion or the first two rounds on the road, but I would think UCLA would try to avoid a loss to Cal as much as they can... at least a bit more than ASU.
But you know what? Who cares? I don't think you could say Arizona State didn't want to win. Cal should be on fire against UCLA, a team they beat in double overtime at Haas in non-conference play (and this was right after Chen Yue got hurt, so the lineup will be roughly the same as last time). The conference matchup in Westwood was decisive. Cal was on a losing streak and Gabby Green sat out of the game. So... with Gabby back in this one, and a neutral court, it'll be fun to see where this game goes.
Now the elephant in the room... this game is on at almost the exact same time at the Men's game. I will actually be in Tempe for that game, so I cannot livetweet and it's questionable whether I'll even get to watch it. But hopefully those of you at home can find a way to tune into both games! The women's game starts an hour after the men's game, so we should have no problems watching the second half of this game God willing!)
TV: Pac-12 Network National/Bay Area/Los Angeles