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Cal Women's Basketball Unable to Close Out UCLA Bruins Before Falling 59-54
Jazlen Green leads the Bears with 17 points.
We all know that fans of any sport want to see wins, but would you prefer that your team suffer a narrow loss or a blowout? Obviously close games are entertaining and might give you confidence that the squad is on the right track. Nevertheless, one thing that lopsided defeats have going for them is that nobody is haunted by a couple of plays that could have swung the contest in another direction.
After Sunday’s first half in which the Cal women’s basketball team played UCLA to a 22-22 stalemate, the Golden Bears found themselves ahead 36-29 near the end of the third quarter which felt like a sizable advantage in the scheme of things. Unfortunately, miscues ultimately prevented the Bears from a sweep of their Los Angeles road trip. I sat courtside at Pauley Pavilion which meant that I could feel the ball being bounced but occasionally had to deal with a referee obstructing my view. Despite the 59-54 Cal loss, one perk was getting a photo opportunity like this (you can ignore my inside joke with a colleague below).
The first half was ugly all around and the Bears were quite fortunate to find themselves in a tied game. In the first quarter, Cal committed eight turnovers and scored only six points. They shot 32 percent from the field while attempting only 22 field goals compared to 36 for the Bruins. UCLA hauled in 14 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes alone but couldn’t secure a lead after shooting 25 percent from the floor and missing all eight attempts from deep in the first 20 minutes. Evelien Lutje Schipholt led the visitors in the first stanza with six points after making four free throws. Leilani McIntosh showed off her quickness with a fast break bucket. An official showed concern when she fell to the court later in the game but McIntosh ended up being fine, high fiving a teammate as she got up and moved down the court. Leilani would end up with five points, five assists, a rebound and three steals.
Despite holding UCLA to 30 percent shooting from the field (Cal shot 28 percent), the Bears at times struggled to match up with the size of the Bruins’ Iimar’i Thomas and to a lesser extent Chantel Horvat. Michelle Ugonne Onyiah and Fatou Samb combined to play 20 minutes for Cal, while Mia Mastrov got the start but played for only nine minutes. Charmin Smith seemed to deploy Mastrov for defensive purposes down the stretch.
Dalayah Daniels made only one field goal but did haul in six boards with one assist, steal and block apiece. While Thomas struggled to bury her looks inside and shot 5-for-15 overall, she still ended with 16 points and 12 boards. Some nifty up and under moves by Schipholt notwithstanding, Cal’s best weapon was Jazlen Green who was a perfect 5-for-5 behind the arc. Green gave the Bears their biggest lead with a pair of threes late in the penultimate quarter and scored 17 points overall.
The Bruins made it 36-31 after the third thanks to a late basket by Charisma Osborne, but it had still been a nice run for Cal.
Other highlights included this Cailyn Crocker flip that rolled in despite a foul called against Izzy Anstey, who is the daughter of former NBA player Chris Anstey. Crocker posted five points, three rebounds and a steal in 20 minutes of action.
UCLA head coach Cori Close called Jayda Curry “a shooter” when coaching her players. She isn’t wrong, especially considering that Curry paced the Bears with 21 points in Friday’s victory over USC. However, Curry had some good looks that rattled out and was generally well defended. Her final line included 4-for-17 shooting from the field with 12 points, six boards, three assists and a pair of made threes.
Curry almost seemed annoyed when she sank a triple with 16 seconds left to bring the Bears within five. Green and McIntosh also hit from deep in the final 81 seconds, but it was all too little too late. While Cal was a strong 12-for-13 from the foul line, the Bears couldn’t match the volume of the Bruins who shot 19-for-23. Close noted that it was a physical contest and said that she was pleased that the Bruin offense heated up in the last 10 minutes. Truthfully, much of UCLA’s fourth quarter output came via Natalie Chou’s hot shooting streak or free throws due to the Bears fouling near the end of the game. In all, UCLA used a 13-3 run to take control as things wound down.
It was still mid-afternoon when I exited the arena, so I made a beeline for one of my favorite places on the UCLA campus. I’m talking about the Fowler Museum, which is free of charge to visit and offers a rotating selection of art and artifacts from around the world. I very much enjoyed an exhibit called Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia's Top End, especially because it reminded me of the times I visited my uncle in Sydney. I also had a good time viewing hand painted signs by Kwame Akoto, an artist who lives in Ghana. He brought back some ‘90s NBA memories for yours truly with a humorous depiction of Larry Johnson. Even though the Bears came up short, I felt privileged to experience everything I did on this particular Sunday.