Sometimes one good quarter of basketball is enough to win the game. That was certainly the case in Cal women’s basketball’s 83-66 victory over the Pacific Tigers — a win fueled by a scorching hot offensive performance in the 1st quarter that was good enough to overshadow the team’s ensuing cold spell.
The Bears shot 14-18 from the field in the first quarter to rack up a walloping 33 points. The scoring avalanche began in the paint, with Cal’s bigs feasting in the low post. The Bears made a concerted effort to feed forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt, running set plays to attack Pacific’s comparatively diminutive interior.
“We wanted Eve to get going early,” said head coach Charmin Smith. “We thought, especially with #14 (Elizabeth Elliot) being out, that (Pacific) wouldn’t have the size. Eve’s been doing a great job for us and those early looks help.”
The Bears’ 16 points in the paint in the 1st quarter opened up the floor for their guards. Kemery Martín led the charge with 10 points and 3 assists to open the game.
Among those 10 points was a highlight-reel assist from guard Leilani McIntosh. McIntosh initially found Martín with a behind-the-back pass through traffic, but Martín couldn’t score at the first time of asking. The Bears found the offensive rebound and McIntosh tried the same pass again, with Martín knocking down the triple on the second attempt.
As a transfer, Martín has had to build chemistry with her new team on the fly. The fit has been seamless thus far, and she exudes confidence, especially in moments like McIntosh’s behind-the-back assist.
“It definitely spreads to everybody. I think with the friendships and obviously working on chemistry — that’s something that’s huge for us and when we get that going, everything starts going, so I want to keep that throughout the game,” Martín said.
Martín finished the game with 21 points, three assists and five rebounds. She’s asserting herself as the secondary scoring option Smith envisioned when the Bears added her from the transfer portal. Cal is slowly starting to give her the keys to the offense, running a number of halfcourt sets through her.
But while the 1st period was one of the blue and gold’s most exceptional this season, the next three quarters were a drag to the finish line. After starting 14-18 from the field, the Bears shot a subpar 17-42 the rest of the game, giving Pacific a lifeline. The 20 point lead shrank to nine by the fourth; Pacific made adjustments and limited the Bears to 10 points in the paint in the second half. Coupled with nine turnovers in the third, Pacific gave the Bears a scare in the fourth.
Cal was able to see the game out in the fourth quarter, thanks to timely buckets by Jayda Curry and Martín.
“Today we took so many steps forward you know at the beginning of the game and we kind of shuffled back a bit,” Smith said. “We just have to be able to do it for 40 minutes. Our offense, I think, we are much improved. We have a number of weapons and it’s about having those weapons show up consistently.”
“Defensively we still have a lot of work to do. I do think we relaxed a bit with a 20 point lead, and we can’t do that. I know it happens, but I don’t want it to be something that happens with us.”
With two games left until Pac-12 play opens up against Stanford, the Bears have a lot to be encouraged by and even more to strive for.
Cal will face UC San Diego this Friday at Haas Pavilion.