Over winter break, my family went on a ski trip that absolutely sucked. On our first day on the slopes, my dad blew out his back and my sister hurt her foot. Our hotel was severely understaffed and underprepared, to the point where nobody in the lobby was even aware when there was a fire alarm going off on the top two floors. To top it all off, there were people everywhere coughing indoors at the height of omicron. After two days, we accepted defeat and drove back home.
I thought that vacation was pretty bad. But it was a breeze compared to Cal women’s basketball’s trip to Oregon last week. In two of their final four games of the regular season, the Bears had a good chance to beat both Oregon and Oregon State, but couldn’t close the deal on either one. They’re now 12-10 overall, but a disappointing 2-8 against Pac-12 competition. That dismal record is actually generous, since one of those wins was an Arizona State forfeit due to COVID-19 cases. With only two games left until the tournament against those same Pac-12 teams, the Bears need to figure out how to turn their tangible talent into conference wins.
On Friday, the Bears arrived in Eugene, Oregon, to take on the Ducks. On paper, they didn’t seem to stand much of a chance against the No. 2 team in the conference at the time. Their chances seemed even more dire considering the 88-53 beatdown that Oregon had already delivered in Haas Pavilion last month. But the game isn’t played on paper. On the court, Cal locked up one of the best offenses it’s faced all season. Oregon forward Nyara Sabally had been dicing apart defenses with her scoring all season. On Friday, she was held to a measly 4 points on 1-6 shooting. The Cal defense confounded her, and she ended her worst night of the season with no assists and as many turnovers as points. Sabally wasn’t the only Duck struggling on that end.
The Oregon starting lineup combined for 23 points. That number is typically associated with greatness in basketball, but in this case would make Michael Jordan sick to his stomach. The lineup shot sixteen 3-pointers and missed every single one. The Bears didn’t pitch a shutout, as they allowed junior forward Sedona Prince to score 15 points off the bench. However, it was still a dominant defensive performance for a team that has struggled on that end.
But right as its defense rebounded, Cal’s offense sputtered. Every starter had more shot attempts than points, a damning signal for any scoring effort. Jayda Curry was held to 8 points, the first time she’s ever failed to reach double digits in her collegiate career. The Bears were completely outmatched in the halfcourt, and ended up wasting their defensive mastery in a 52-47 loss.
They had a shot at redemption against Oregon State two days later. They got two great offensive performances from Jayda Curry and Jazlen Green, who combined for 40 points. But the team’s overall offense could not bounce back, and the Curry/Green duo made up over two-thirds of Cal’s scoring. That offense completely died out after taking a 47-40 lead in the third quarter. The Bears laid lifeless on the ground as the Beavers went on a 16-0 run to take the lead, which they never relinquished. Final score: 68-59. Oregon State wins.
Despite this disastrous vacation, Cal women’s basketball has much to be excited for. This team is still very young, and most key players are expected to return next season. These brutal stretches are what bring teammates closer together and test the boundaries for how tough a team really is. But while the future is bright, the present certainly got a little darker after dropping two winnable games.