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Asha Thomas blisters the nets to lead Cal past LSU

Cal’s sophomore point guard sinks six 3 pointers to lead Cal to the round of 32

NCAA Womens Basketball: PAC-12 Conference Tournament-California vs UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Having an elite interior scorer is a great thing. Kristine Anigwe is a great player. But you need more than just one post, because smart teams with good defenses can double and triple team a post into obscurity.

All season long, Cal has had one other obvious source of offense - the deep shooting prowess of Asha Thomas. Cal’s only reliable shooter from deep has a beautiful looking shot, but at times this year she has passed up open looks in favor of getting her teammates involved.

An admirable goal, perhaps, but not always in Cal’s best interest.

Thankfully, with the season on the line and Kristine mired in foul trouble, it was Thomas who stepped up and buried 3 after 3 after 3. Her four 1st half treys staked Cal out to an early lead, at which point LSU finally seemed to figure out that she was too dangerous to leave open behind the line. But inside 2 minutes to play with the score tied, she managed to float to the corner, and Anigwe found her for the three that ended up providing the winning points.

In a game that matched up two teams with obvious offensive weak points, beautiful basketball was few and far between. The Bears spent most of the game in a zone that forced the poor-shooting Tigers to settle for a bunch of mediocre jumpers. LSU’s defense, not surprisingly, forced Cal into a flurry of turnovers. Points were hard to come by.

In the end, Cal won the game by shooting the ball better - 48% on 2 point shots compared to LSU’s 35%, 39% on threes compared to LSU’s 25% . . . and crucially, 89% on free throws compared to LSU’s 57%. Yes, you read that correctly, the Bears arguably won the game at the line, led most prominently by Anigwe, who hit 7-7 from the line in the final 11 minutes of the game.

Thomas and Anigwe were the only Bears to hit double figures, but when you hold the other team to .87 points/possession despite giving up 19 offensive rebounds, you don’t need to produce a ton of scoring to win the game.

Next up is a significantly taller task - the Baylor Bears, who did the typical Baylor thing by nearly quadrupling up Texas Southern, 119-30. Kim Mulkey isn’t into the whole showing mercy thing (among other ‘quirks’) and Cal will be heavy, heavy underdogs on Baylor’s home court.

But Cal is one of the last 32 teams standing, something few of us expected to be saying mere weeks ago. That alone is worth celebrating. Go Bears!