Cal Women's Basketball: Bears Close In on NCAA Tournament Berth With a Victory

Cal guard Recee' Caldwell had just five points but she contributed eight assists with just one turnover.Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics

Anigwe ties Pac-12 record for consecutive double-doubles in win over Washington

Kristine Anigwe reached another milestone and Cal took another step toward an NCAA Tournament berth on Friday, although the Bears stumbled a bit crossing the finish line.

Playing against a Washington team that is hoping to avoid the Pac-12 cellar, Cal let much of a 16-point lead slip away before holding on for a 71-65 victory in Seattle.

Anigwe had another solid game with 20 points (on 10-of-16 shooting) and 18 rebounds despite being constantly double-teamed and often triple-teamed.

It was Anigwe's 29th straight double-double, tying the Pac-12 record set by Oregon's Jillian Alleyne from Jan. 11, 2015, to Jan. 4, 2016. Anigwe's streak is also the fourth-longest in Division I history. She is the only player in the country who has had a double-double in every game this season.

Asha Thomas added 16 points for the Bears, and it was a Thomas three-pointer in the midst of a Huskies rally that was the key basket of the game. Thomas made 4 of 5 three-point shots for the game, and the Bears were 10-of-19 from long range as a team.

Depite the late-game struggles, Cal (17-11, 8-9 Pac-12) now seems to be in good position to land an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Bears finish the regular season on Sunday at Washington State, another game the Bears are expected to win.

With an RPI ranking of 38 entering the game and two quality wins (Stanford and Arizona State) under their belt, the Bears only needed to avoid a bad loss down the stretch to get the postseason berth they want. And a loss to the Huskies (9-19, 2-14) would have constituted a bad loss.

Missy Peterson had 23 points and was 5-of-6 from beyond the arc for Washington, and Amanda Melgoza added 22 points, although Melgoza was just 9-for-29 from the field.

Cal played without forward CJ West, who suffered a facial injury in Cal’s win over Arizona on Sunday. It is unclear whether she will play on Sunday, but it seems unlikely.

The Bears shot 64.3 percent from the field in the second half, while the Huskies shot just 17.6 percent from the floor after halftime, which makes you wonder how Washington nearly caught the Bears in the closing minutes.

The Bears took command of the game at the outset of the second half by pushing the pace. Cal scored 10 points on its first four poessessions of the second half to increase a two-point halftime lead to 47-37 just two minutes into the third period. The Bears ended up scoring on each of their first seven possessions of the second half, resulting in a 16-2 Cal run that gave them a 53-37 advantage at the 6:35 mark of the third quarter.

Cal entered the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead, and seemed to be in control. But the Huskies closed the gap to three points on Darcy Rees' bucket with 4:27 left in the game.

Thomas slowed the Huskies' rally with a three-pointer at the 3:57 mark that restored the six-point lead, and ended Washington's rally. After Peterson scored to make it a four-point game with 2:47 remaining, both teams failed to do much offensively the rest of the game.

Cal did not make another field goal but made enough free throws in the final minute to hang on while Washington failed to score again until just 3.5 seconds remained.

Melgoza scored 13 of her points in the first half, which ended with Cal holding a 37-35 lead.

Anigwe had four points and four rebounds in the first two minutes of the game, although she was limited to eight points and eight rebounds in the first half.

The Huskies shot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half, including 50 percent (3-for-6) on three-pointers. The Bears did much of their damage from long range, hitting 7 of their 12 three-point attempts.

Cal’s Thomas made both of her three-point attempts over the first two quarters, and Kianna Smith led the Bears in scoring in the first half with 10 points.