Led by Kristine Anigwe, Cal tops a tough Washington squad 79-70, enjoys a weekend sweep

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BERKELEY, Calif. – California (12-5, 3-3 Pac-12) completed a weekend sweep of the Pac-12 teams from the state of Washington this weekend, giving the Golden Bears some relief after losing two in a row in Arizona the previous week. The Golden Bears topped Washington 79-70 Sunday afternoon in a hard-fought battle that saw the Huskies leading at the beginning of the fourth quarter. However, led by senior center Kristine Anigwe, the nation’s frontrunner in double-doubles, Cal fought off the Huskies down the stretch to pull out a much-needed win.

After the game, Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb addressed the fans in attendance to tell them “we appreciate you” acknowledging how much the team values their support through the tough times. The crowd was the sixth man as the Bears clawed out of a hole after the first quarter and went back and forth with the Huskies for most of the remainder of the contest.

After Cal scored the first basket of the game, a jumpshot from Anigwe, the teams went tit for tat. Washington junior guard Amber Melgoza did most of the offensive work for her team scoring 10 points in the first quarter. Anigwe had eight for Cal. The Huskies went into the second quarter with a 21-20 lead.

Cal senior guard Asha Thomas gave her team a one-point lead early in the second quarter with a layup and Anigwe followed up with another one. However, Washington sophomore guard Missy Peterson nailed a three-pointer to tie the game up at 24 points. The rest of the quarter went much like the first, with the teams swapping baskets with no squad able to build any momentum for a sizable lead. Scrambling bodies diving for loose balls and good defense from both teams marked the intense second quarter.

At the half, the game was tied again at 33 points per team. Anigwe led all scorers at the break with 14 points plus 10 rebounds.

Melgoza put her team in the lead at the beginning of the third quarter with a layup. Washington (8-11, 1-6) relied heavily on three-point shooting as they tried to offset the small runs that Cal made throughout the third period. The Huskies were 50 percent from beyond the arc (4-of-8) while Cal missed all three of its trey attempts in the period. Melgoza had back-to-back treys midway through the quarter while Peterson made one with 1:07 left. At the beginning of the fourth period, Washington had a 51-49 advantage.

The last quarter was most distinct of the game as Cal hunkered down on defense and ramped up its offensive production shooting at a 72.7 percent clip from the field. The defense from the Bears held Washington to just 19 points compared to Cal’s 30. At one point, grad transfer guard Receé Caldwell snatched the ball out of junior forward Mai-Loni Henson’s hands and raced to the other end of the court.

“The girl brought the ball down and I ended up just taking it and I think we converted as well,” said Caldwell about the emphatic steal. “At that time, it was more like ‘we’re closing this game out.’ That’s been part of our journey that we needed to do.”

In that possession from the steal, with 1:52 left in the game, Thomas hit a corner three, giving her the 200th trey of her college career. She is only the second Cal player to reach that mark in program history.

Free throws were also a crucial factor down the stretch as Cal got to the line more and made 11-of-12 free throws compared to 5-of-7 by the Huskies.

Half of Anigwe’s eight points in the quarter came from free throws. The three-time All-American finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds, her 18th consecutive double-double dating back to last season.

Anigwe said she doesn’t really think about her streak but knows that the opponent’s “game plan will be to try and frustrate me” so instead of worrying so much about putting up points, she tries to “go for boards,” and trusts that her teammates “can make opens shots or can make a play.”

“If I’m not going to get touches, then I’ll rebound.”

Gottlieb added that Anigwe has the confidence to think “I can get every single rebound so why not?” This enables the potential first round WNBA draft pick to have outstanding numbers, night after night, in the rebounds column.

Caldwell contributed 15 points and freshman McKenzie Forbes added 10 points for the Bears off the bench. Thomas was close to a triple-double, finishing with nine points, seven rebounds, and a season-high eight assists.

Melgoza paced Washington with 27 points and Peterson added 15.

After Stanford beat Washington Friday night, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer commented that Washington was “a very capable team” and specifically mentioned Melgoza. While the Huskies did not play very well against the Cardinal, they regrouped in the 48 hours after the game to give Cal a hard time, showcasing their strengths.

“Any road or home sweep in this conference is huge,” said Gottlieb about finishing off the last three days with a win. “That’s a team, as we know, is way better than their record. They’re incredibly dangerous and they shot the ball well today. I’m thankful for the win and so proud of our kids.”

Both Pac-12 teams from the Bay Area head on the road to Utah and Colorado next weekend. Cal plays at Utah on Friday and Colorado on Sunday. The games will be carried on Pac-12 Networks.

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