Even though Cal got outplayed in the paint, conceded more fast break points and had only one player score in double digits, it came out on top in an unattractive victory. But one thing is certain — a win is a win.
Over at University Credit Union Pavilion, Cal took on Saint Mary’s on Sunday afternoon for its fourth game of the season. The Bears would look to their team leaders to spark the offense.
Cal took an early 2-0 lead on a drive in the paint from Leilani McIntosh, who would be the deciding factor in the game’s trajectory. The Bears’ largest lead took place with about three and half minutes left in the quarter and would be the last time they remained in front until they regained the lead in the final minutes of the game.
By the end of the first and second quarters, Cal found itself down by 2 points but kept the game close for most of regulation. Despite trailing by 8 at one point in the first half, the Bears stayed within striking distance in the final two quarters, knowing just when to pounce in the remaining minutes.
“We had a bunch of downs, but I love how we stuck together,” said McIntosh.
Saint Mary’s Ali Bamberger, Taycee Wedin and Makena Mastora combined for 51 of the Gaels’ 66 total points, going a combined 6-8 from beyond the arc. They helped their team command the lead for most of the game but fell just short in their efforts to take down Cal.
Down 62-66 with under 2:45 to go, the Bears — led by Karisma Ortiz, Jayda Curry, Peanut Tuitele and McIntosh — put together a 7-0 run to close out the game. Tuitele’s drive to the bucket and layup with the assist from Ortiz gave Cal its first lead since the first quarter.
McIntosh bookended her impressive and team-leading night with two free throws in the remaining seconds to put the game away. She ended the night with 18 points, going 5-7 from the field including 2-2 from three and 6-6 from the line.
Despite grabbing the win in this matchup, the Bears’ 69 points are the lowest they have scored in a game all season by a significant margin. In a game where they scored over 80, like the matchup against Idaho last week, they not only attempted more shots but also limited their opponents to score less points in the paint.
“This was a really gritty, tough win for our team,” said coach Charmin Smith. “It shows our character and resiliency that we can get the win and we don’t play well.”
In the last two contests, Cal has been vulnerable to fast breaks, allowing opponents to outscore them 17 to 11 in the category. Committing less turnovers and locking down stronger defense on these types of plays will help close that gap.
With how balanced the productivity has been from many players on the Bears’ offense the last few games, the aptitude for McIntosh to pick up her teammates and make plays happen just reinforces her abilities as an offensive weapon. She was the only Cal player to reach double digits, while also starting and closing out the scoring in the game.
“(The win) wasn’t pretty. It was ugly, but we still got it as a team,” said Tuitele.
With this victory, Cal improves to 3-1 on the season, while Saint Mary’s falls to 2-2. The next two matchups will be against .500 or lower teams in the LMU Thanksgiving Tournament out in Los Angeles, so the Bears look to bounce back and feast on their competition this upcoming weekend.