On Saturday night, Cal women’s basketball advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 55-52 win over LSU. Asha Thomas led the way for the Golden Bears with 18 points on 6-9 shooting from three-point range while Kristine Anigwe finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Cal will face #1 seeded Baylor on Monday. The time is TBA on one of the ESPN stations.
Cal got off to a real strong start in this game, taking an 18-9 lead at the end of the 1st quarter, but from there it was a real battle. LSU outscored Cal 43-37 the rest of the way and actually gained their first lead of the game late in the second half. What got Cal to the finish line is the sensational shooting of Asha Thomas and Kristine Anigwe finding a way to play through foul trouble and shoot a perfect 7-7 from the foul line. The only player to get to the line for Cal was CJ West, who shot 1-2, so those foul shots by Anigwe were absolutely critical to Cal’s success.
Cal shot more efficiently than LSU did, shooting 20-45 (44.4%) from the field and 7-18 (38.9%) from three-point range. LSU in contrast shot 21-63 (33.3%) from the field and 8-14 (57.1%) from the foul line. LSU’s leading scorer Raigyne Moncrief, who shot a horrendous 3-18 from the field, scored just 10 points in the game and never got into any sort of rhythm. With their top scorer in such a funk, LSU was really put at a major disadvantage.
What kept LSU alive in this game is that they stayed even with Cal on the boards 35-35, including a 19-9 advantage on the offensive glass. Cal has to do a better job rebounding if they are going to upset Baylor on Monday. If you are going to force so many missed field goals, you have to do a much better job of controlling the defensive boards and limiting second chance points.
Towards the very end of the game, things really went down to the wire. What sealed the deal for Cal was an emphatic block from Kristine Anigwe, a clutch corner three from Asha Thomas, and Kristine Anigwe icing the game at the foul line. Cal made winning plays and kept their composure amid a very frustrating five-second violation. Cal stayed mentally locked in for a full 40 minutes and didn’t fall apart at the end. In retrospect, it might be the best game I’ve seen Cal play all season just from the standpoint of finishing a game. There’s certainly no better time for such a performance than the NCAA Tournament.