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Bears dominate the paint to beat UW, 69-60

Cal has Kristine and nobody else does, thank Oski for that

NCAA Womens Basketball: California at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Washington will almost certainly finish the season competing with Arizona for last place in the Pac-12. While they have generally been competitive in all of their four conference losses so far, it wasn’t exactly encouraging to see the Bears briefly trailing in the 2nd half.

But that’s what happens when shots don’t fall. After getting off to a hot start in the 1st quarter, Cal quickly cooled down. The Bear missed eleven 3 pointers in a row, 8 of came in a frustrating 7 point 2nd quarter that saw Washington climb back into the game despite not doing a ton on offense themselves.

Cal’s solution? They just stopped taking 3 pointers and instead renewed their focus on getting the ball inside to Kristine Anigwe and Penina Davidon. Was it frustrating that Cal’s guards (who are all individually over 35% from behind the arc on the season) couldn’t buy a bucket? Certainly. Thankfully Cal wasn’t playing a team built to punish their profligacy, and even more thankfully Cal’s interior scorers had their way with the Huskies.

Kristine and Penina combined to shoot 20-30 from the floor for 44 points and 19 rebounds. UW’s opposing forwards were undersized and overwhelmed, and Cal didn’t have much trouble getting consistent post entries. Mikayla Cowling in particular feasted on the soft middle of UW’s zone, recording 11 assists by getting the ball near the free throw line and dropping passing into either of Cal’s forwards.

If Cal’s outside shots had been dropping the game wouldn’t have been particularly close. As it turns out, Cal still needed Asha Thomas to hit her (and Cal’s) last two shots from deep to finally put the game out of reach. Better late than never, right?

Cal’s defense was generally solid, if unspectacular. Lacking the personnel to really attack Cal in the paint, UW took more 3s than normal and hit them at a solid enough clip to keep them afloat. But the Huskies were a miserable 10-31 on 2 point shots, and were largely unable/unwilling to challenge Cal’s post defenders.

If you’re looking for reasons to be concerned, you obviously focus on how everybody other than Kristine, Penina, and Asha combined to shoot 4-23 from the field. And yet, while watching the game, I never felt like Washington’s defense was forcing Cal into poor shot selection. Sometimes nobody sinks anything. Still, it fits into a trend of iffy offensive performances. Now would be a great time to break out of the mini-slump before the schedule gets much, much harder.

Still, Cal had Kristine Anigwe (and Penina Davidson) and Washington didn’t. There will be nights when that fact is enough. On Friday night at Haas it was.