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Rut on the road: Big losses in Los Angeles for Cal women’s basketball

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JANUARY 18, 2023

Cal women’s basketball flew through its opening nonconference stint with a 9-2 record, sparking hope for the season to come. Yet, Pac-12 play brought the nation’s top talents to reign over the blue and gold.

With a disappointing 1-3 conference record on paper, the Bears, in contrast, saw a rather promising reflection beyond the numbers in the final box score. With dignified efforts and slim margins of defeat to leading teams in women’s basketball, No. 4 Stanford and No. 19 Arizona, Cal sensed it could be overdue for a breakthrough.

A breakthrough in their sights, the Bears hit the road for a weekend in Southern California — only to revel in frustration by its conclusion. On Friday evening, Cal was trounced by the Trojans, particularly in the first quarter, 43-63. Two days later, Cal remedied its slow start, yet forfeited control of the game in the fourth quarter to No. 9 UCLA, resulting in a 70-87 defeat.

Friday’s match-up in Galen Center featured two teams fresh off competitive losses to their ranked rival opponents. Thus, in the spirit of redemption, USC brought the energy, and imposed it heavily upon Cal’s nonchalant forces. Led by 5’9” guard Destiny Littleton and 6’4” forward Rayah Marshall, the Trojans locked the Bears down defensively and capitalized on Cal’s unforced errors with stellar conversion in the transition game — one of its biggest strong suits.

The performance was riddled with critical areas of improvement for Cal, but the primary element absent was the ability for the Bears to roll into a rhythm. A team that averages 70.9 points per game and features three players averaging double-digit scoring supplied just 43 points in the match-up. Further, Cal racked up 20 turnovers, a variety of shot clock violations and misread passing lanes, eight of which came in the opening quarter.

The second half saw the Bears improve their footing, as sharpshooter Kemery Martin and veteran forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt contributed eight and 10 points, respectively, in the latter 20 minutes. USC provided a well-rounded effort to close out the game after creating the initial deficit from the get-go.

Learning a lesson, Cal made sure not to make the same mistake of a lackluster start in Sunday’s match-up in Pauley Pavilion. Martin led the pack, nailing four three-pointers and finishing the first half with 14 points for the Bears. Cal facilitated its offense effectively, with play calling from point guard Jayda Curry and her backcourt counterpart Leilani McIntosh.

Riding a momentous wave, the Bears were able to play back and forth with the ranked Bruins for the first three quarters. However, this time around, finishing proved to be the problem: Cal gave up a 29-13 run to end the game, marked by a six-minute stretch of missed field goal attempts and four turnovers. Reflecting on the contest, Cal head coach Charmin Smith emphasized the Bears’ encouraging improvement from Friday’s match-up, but was not satisfied nonetheless.

“I think considering where we came from, with our performance on Friday, I was really proud of how we bounced back and started this game and it’s a really good team. So that was a positive,” Smith said. “And then I just think there were too many mistakes even in the first quarter, where we should have had a bigger lead.”

There is much to takeaway from Cal’s weekend in L.A. Cal has to finish what it starts. It should probably start in the first place, too. Now, back home in Haas Pavilion, the Bears face a tough slot, hosting the Pac-12’s best in Colorado, Utah then Oregon. The odds may not be in their favor, but the Bears will hunt for the breakthrough.

Contact Jane Kenny at 


JANUARY 18, 2023