Despite a 19-3 run in the final five minutes of the game, Cal women’s basketball (11-12, 2-10) was unable to overcome a 22 point deficit against WSU (19-9, 11-6) in the regular season finale. Jayda Curry was crucial to the Golden Bear’s offensive success down the stretch as she scored six of those 19 points in the final five minutes. The Cougars walked out of Haas Pavilion with a 73-67 victory.
With the victory, the Cougars clinched their first ever bye in the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament. The 19 wins are also the most for the program in the NCAA tournament era as well.
Bella Murekatete nailed two free throws after she was fouled, hard, by Evelien Lutje Schipholt to ice the game with two seconds left on the clock to get us to the final margin. The only other point that Washington State had scored in the final four minutes was the second of two free throws by senior Krystal Leger-Walker. Outside of that Curry, and Ugonne Onyiah shredded the Cougar defense with repeated three pointers or drives in the lane that drew fouls.
The run started with a three pointer by Cailyn Crocker and then she completed the and-one to cut the Cougar lead to 19 with 4:53 left. Murekatete was hit with a beautiful pass from Krystal to push the lead up to 21; but then the Cougs were unable to buy a bucket from the field throughout the rest of the game.
Cal, on the other hand, hit practically everything. Curry, whom WSU had kept in check for the first 27 minutes, went off as she hit a pair of jumpers that sandwiched a beautiful layup from Dalayah Daniels. While Murekatete had dominated the paint for the first 36 minutes, she suddenly found herself out of position down the stretch as the Golden Bears were able to consistently get round her. Onyiah, in particular, was absolutely devastating if she got the ball near the rim.
Washington State was able to survive the complete meltdown in the paint because they’d come out of the final quarter break on fire. Charlisse Leger-Walker started off the final quarter with back-to-back layups that made it 58-44 and that was followed up by a wide open three from Tara Wallack.
Wallack would follow-up that three with a beautiful layup off of a Charlisse steal and pass to then pus the lead out to make it 63-44 with 7:37 left in the game. The freshmen wasn’t done as she also made another layup for her seventh straight point as WSU opened up the final quarter on a 11-0 run. It was Daniels that hit Cal’s first bucket of the fourth; but Ula Motuga hit a three of her own to push the Cougar lead out to its largest margin of the game at 22 points, 68-46. That Motuga three was the second to final bucket from the field for Washington State…Murekatete’s layup with 4:41 left was the final one.
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While the Cougars had successfully kept Cal off the free throw line in the first half, the Golden Bears went to the charity stripe eight times in the third quarter — they hit all eight shots. That disparity in made free throws — WSU hit three of six in the quarter — was a major reason that the Bears were able to turn what had been a 19 point deficit at one point into a 10 point deficit by the buzzer. Curry found her shot, which included a beautiful turnaround jumper for the last bucket of the quarter, in the final four minutes of the frame.
The third quarter had started off with a three from Charlisse and a layup in the paint from Murekatete as WSU pushed its lead to 36-25. In fact, the Cougars would reel off the first 10 points of the quarter — which included a Johanna Teder three. Leilani McIntosh scored Cal’s first bucket when she hit a midrange jumper to cut the lead down to 14. But Motuga and Teder immediately responded with five points (a layup at the rim for Motuga, a three for Teder) to make it 45-27.
It was at this point that Cal started to draw fouls as they went on a 9-2 run over the next two and a half minutes to cut the lead down to 11. Wallack got a layup off of the fast break to make it a 13 point lead again; but the Golden Bears offense kept drawing fouls and converting on shots from the charity stripe. The last points of the third quarter would come off of a jumper from Curry with six seconds left as the Cougs took a 54-44 lead into the final quarter.
Mastrov’s three right before the buzzer cut the Cougar lead down to six as they’d take a 31-25 lead into the halftime locker room. The freshmen’s triple had come right after Motuga had drained a three of her own to push Washington State’s lead out to nine. Motuga’s three was the last points for WSU to cap off a 10-2 run up that had helped the Cougs establish control of the game…that is until Mastrov nailed her uncontested three.
The second quarter started off with the Golden Bears in possession of a two point lead until Motuga drained a three pointer. She would also hit a free throw about 40 seconds later to get Washington State’s lead ou to two. But that didn’t ast long as Lutje Schipholt hit a midrange jumper to tie it at 16.
Washington State would go 2:12 after Motuga’s free throw until it scored again. That bucket came on a three ball by Charlisse to make it 19-16; Murekatete followed that up with a pair of free throws after she drew a foul call against Lutje Schipholt to make it 21-16. And then Jazlen Green hit a three on a fast break off of a defensive rebound to cut the Cougar’s lead down to two.
Murekatete would jumpstart the Cougar’s 10-2 run with a layup in the paint.
The first quarter concluded with a nearly four minute scoring drought for WSU as the Golden Bears would get a jumper from Onyiah and a layup from Mcintosh to take a 14-12 lead into the first break.
Up until that scoring drought, both teams had pretty consistently swapped buckets after Cal overcame an early four point (6-2) lead for Washington State. Charlisse was responsible for six of the Cougars’ first 10 points — Murekatete was resonsible for the other four. Teder’s first points of the game came on a layup and were also the last points WSU would score in the first frame.
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Photo Credit: Cal women’s basketball.