Sunday was Senior Day for Cal, but it was a freshman who was crying tears of joy after playing a major role in Cal's remarkable comeback from a 20-point deficit in an 82-76 overtime victory over Arizona at Haas Pavilion.
"When the time came, it was just natural for us to get hot," Cal freshman McKenzie Forbes said between tears.
---Cal (16-11, 7-9 Pac-12) had a scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in the first half.
---Cal was the victim of a 22-0 run by Arizona (17-8, 8-8).
---Cal trailed by 20 points in the third quarter.
---Cal won the game, which was the Bears’ final home game of the season.
"Senior Nights tend to be emotional and special," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said, "and I'm kind of an emotional person anyway, but this is high levels even for me. I'm going to remember this game with the Elite Eight game in Spokane (in 2013); I'll remember this win with Stanford victories on our court or clinching the Pac-12 championship in Washington (in 2013). Just because of how it unfolded."
It unfolded in grand style for Cal, which imposed its will on the Wildcats in the second half.
"We had to grit it out for a long time," Gottlieb said.
The grit even cost Cal forward CJ West some teeth as she hit the floor face-first while diving for a loose ball.
But the game belonged to Cardwell and Forbes.
Forbes had played less than six minutes in Friday's victory over Arizona State, and she was scoreless in that game as well as the two previous games.
She was scoreless Sunday through three periods, but scored all 17 of her points in the fourth quarter and overtime, hitting 5 of 6 three-point shots, including treys on consecutive Cal possession of overtime that put Cal ahead to stay.
Cal center Kristine Anigwe finished with 16 points and 20 rebounds, but it was the hit outside shooting of Frobes and graduate transfer Recee' Caldwell, who scored 18 of her 24 points after halftime to get the Bears back in the game.
"We weren't going to lose on Senior Day," said Caldwell, who made 4 of 7 three-point shots. "That was on my mind the whole time."
Cal had a scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in the first half that helped Arizona put together a 22-0 run that left the Wildcats in charge. The Bears trailed by as many as 19 points in the second quarter and were behind by 20 points three minutes into the third quarter.
Hot shooting by Caldwell helped the Bears' reduce the Cal deficit to 11 points heading into the fourth quarter, and an Anigwe follow shot got the Bears to within 53-46 at the 6:44 mark. A basket by CJ West got the Bears within 55-52 with 5:19 left to play and a three-pointer by McKenzie Forbes reduced the deficit to two points with 4:01 remaining. Cal still trailed by two after Caldwell scored with 1:12 left, and that was followed by an Arizona turnover that ended up sending West to the locker room with an injury that caused a chipped tooth.
Caldwell then tied the score with a three-pointer from the corner with 17.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Sam Thomas made one of two foul shots for a 63-61 Arizona lead with 15.9 seconds left, and Anigwe tied it by make the second of two foul shots with 3.2 seconds remaining to send it into overtime.
In the overtime, the Bears took a 76-74 lead when Forbes hit three-pointers on consecutive Cal possessions, connecting with 1:47 to go and again with 1:04 left.
Caldwell credited McKenzie's hard work for allowing her to star at crunch time.
"The secret is in the dirt," Caldwell said.
After an Arizona miss, Kianna Smith made one of two foul shots with 36 seconds remaining to make it three-point game, and the Wildcats turned it over on their next possession.
Arizona guard Aari McDonald, the Pac-12’s leading scorer who had 36 points in the Wildcats’ 60-55 victory over Cal on January 11, had 31 points on Sunday and broke the school record for points in a season.
The second quarter was a nightmare for the Bears, who went scoreless for a stretch of 10:29 that started late in the first quarter.
Cal led 13-10 when Thomas made a three-pointer with 2:11 remaining in the first quarter. The Bears then missed 13 consecutive shots and added a few turnovers as Arizona reeled off 22 straight points to take a 32-13 lead with 2:55 remaining in the first half.
Caldwell ended the Cal drought with a bucket at the 1:42 mark of the second quarter for the Bears’ first points of the period. Caldwell then hit another shot at the first-half buzzer to give Cal four points in the quarter and reduce the Wildcats’ lead to 32-17 at intermission.
"I really challenged us at halftime," Gottlieb said, "I really yelled at them about our effort and our body language and who we wanted to be."
The Bears finished the first half shooting 21.4 percent from the field, and were shooting just 16.7 percent with two minutes left in the half.
Anigwe had five points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half, as Arizona sagged three defenders on the Cal center. McDonald had 13 first-half points.