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Marginal gains: Bears snap 6-game losing streak

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FEBRUARY 01, 2023

At some point, the one possession, coin toss end-of-game situations would flip Cal women’s basketball’s way — at least according to the law of averages. And this past weekend, the Bears split their two games versus Oregon and Oregon State 50-50, coming up short versus the Ducks but besting the Beavers.

In their first matchup of the weekend, the Bears welcomed an Oregon team coming off two straight losses that booted them out of the top-25 national rankings. And the Ducks came to play. Oregon’s guard attack of Endyia Rogers, Te-Hina Paopao and Chance Gray burned the Bears, combining for 43 of the Ducks’ 78 points. But the star of the game was Grace VanSlooten. The power forward bludgeoned her way to 20 points and nine rebounds. Oregon’s big four came to play at Haas Pavilion — but so did the Bears.

Rocking their all-pink breast cancer awareness uniforms, the Bears got scoring support from the entire team. By the second quarter, nine out of the 10 players for Cal were on the score sheet, which is no easy feat. It was the Bears’ frontcourt rotation of Evelien Lutje Schipholt, Peanut Tuitele, Michelle Onyiah and Claudia Langarita that battled to keep things close.

In the fourth, Leilani McIntosh buried a three to give the Bears a 3-point lead with less than three minutes to go. Oregon responded with a 7-2 run to take a 75-73 lead. The game hung in the balance of another late-game possession for the Bears.

They called Jayda Curry’s number, running her through a pick-and-roll, but she never got a shot up: After a give and go with Karisma Ortiz, the referees called Curry for a travel, killing Cal’s chance at an upset.

When asked about the travel call on Jayda Curry, head coach Charmin Smith was not pleased with the officiating.

“I didn’t see a travel. That’s a tough call at that time in the game and I felt as though Oregon had quick feet — Flintstone feet — all evening.”

Oregon’s 78-73 victory extended Cal’s losing streak to six games. The loss marked another game in which the Bears came up short versus a Pac-12 opponent.

“We are grinding and it’s disappointing and frustrating,” Smith said. “We know we’re better and we just have to keep pushing and we’ll get over the hump. We just have to stay with it.”

And despite the game-deciding turnover, Curry stayed with it. Against Oregon State, Curry had her best game of the season, in what could be seen as the Bears’ most important game of this campaign. Curry notched a game-high 21 points, burying three triples to extend her streak to 43 consecutive regular-season games with a 3-pointer.

Cal battled back from an 8-point deficit in the fourth quarter; it kept pushing and grinding, as Smith had demanded, to launch a furious comeback. The hero of the game could have gone to any of the Bears, but if there had to be one, it is Lutje Schipholt. With 45 seconds left in the game, McIntosh found Lutje Schipholt cutting to the rim to give Cal a 1-point lead. And on the other end, needing a defensive stop, Lutje Schipholt came up with a game-saving block on Talia von Oelhoffen.

“I’m just really happy for our team,” Smith said. “They’ve been sticking with it and working extremely hard and I’m glad that they can be rewarded with the victory. We finally finished the job. We’re showing progress and this is a great step heading into February.”

Perhaps the victory over the Beavers can provide a spark for the Bears’ second half of the season. They’ll have a chance to settle their scores in a number of Pac-12 rematches and make some noise in the Pac-12 tournament.

Contact Kenzo Fukuda at 


FEBRUARY 01, 2023