2018 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament: Cal holds on against Washington, 71-68
Next (wo)man up.
Cal junior Kristine Anigwe, who has led the Bears on offense this season with 17.0 ppg, was held scoreless until the first minute of the third quarter due to an aggressive Washington double-team in Thursday’s first round of the 2018 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
But that didn’t break the fifth-seeded Bears in their 71-68 win over 12-seed Washington at KeyArena in Seattle. It gave Jaelyn Brown the opportunity to step up and score. Though Brown didn’t tally the most points for Cal — that was junior Asha Thomas with 22 — Brown’s contributions were perhaps the most significant.
The sophomore kept her team afloat early on with nine of Cal’s 11 second-quarter points. Despite the Bears’ silence on offense until the 5:31 mark in the second period, they went into halftime with a 35-30 lead over UW. The tide turned in the third quarter in favor of Washington, when it ripped off an 18-2 run.
UW began packing the paint, forcing Cal to shoot from outside with little success — Thomas hit the Bears’ only three of the quarter — and the Huskies found their own success beyond the arc, nailing four three-point shots in under five minutes. But, despite Amber Melgoza’s best efforts, Washington couldn’t keep the magic alive in front of its hometown crowd.
The sophomore guard scored all but three of UW’s 17 fourth-quarter points and kept the Huskies in the game until the final seconds. She totaled 30 points on the day. “We might be short,” Washington head coach Jody Wynn said in a post-game press conference.
“We might be down in numbers. But throughout the course of this year our team has shown the heart and the grit and the toughness in which we want our Washington women’s basketball program to be all about. I’m just proud of the fight we showed today.”
To counter Melgoza’s performance, Asha Thomas put on her own show. Of her 22 points on the day, 12 came in the final period via a three-point shot, a cluster of lay-ups and a steady hand at the free-throw line.
“It’s so way beyond the 20 points,” Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb told Pac-12 Network’s Jill Savage after the game. “She is the most balanced, equanimous kid. She is special. We’re glad she’s on our team.” “I think A.T.’s a phenomenal player,” Wynn said. “She’s so shifty. She’s explosive and she’s able to change speeds really, really well. She got lost a couple of times in our transition defense.”
Cal recharges for a Friday matchup with (4) UCLA at 2 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Network. In the two contests between the Bears and Bruins this season, UCLA bested Cal by 36 points (Dec. 31) and eight points (Jan. 19).
“There’s a huge task ahead of us with UCLA,” Gottlieb said. “They’re so good and they’re a top-10 team nationally for a reason. But we’ll try to get ourselves in the mentality right from the tip that, hey, we understand March basketball and we have to make some noise tomorrow from the beginning.”