A young Cal survives test vs. Santa Clara as Kentucky looms on the horizon
Cal earns seventh straight victory
.@CalWBBall freshman forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt, who finished with 19pts/9rebs, on Cal's fight to come from behind and beat Santa Clara: "We just want to fight for every ball and for each other….I think that's something that we should be proud of as a team." pic.twitter.com/GEsWN0ppk6
— Hoopfeed.com ? (@hoopfeed) December 15, 2019
BERKELEY, Calif. — With a 69-65 hard-fought win over Santa Clara (4-5) Saturday evening, Cal (7-2) earned a seventh straight victory under first-year head coach Charmin Smith. The win, which came down to the final 1:27, provided a good test for the Bears as they are set to face nationally-ranked Kentucky next Saturday and will begin Pac-12 play in just a few weeks.
“I think this was a good win for our program,” Smith said. “I think Santa Clara challenged us in a lot of ways and I am glad that after giving up a lead, we were able to recover and come out with the win. I am excited about what this program is doing with having four freshmen on the floor at the end of the game. I think we are really growing and getting better every day.”
The Bears played without senior center CJ West due to illness and junior guard Mi’Cole Cayton who is still sidelined with a knee injury and has yet to play this season.
Cal got off to a slow start in the first half of the first quarter with Santa Clara earning a 6-2 lead. Freshman forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt evened up the score, 6-6-, after a fastbreak layup. After another tie, 9-9 at 3:41, the Bears finished out the quarter on run, to lead 21-13 going into the second period.
The Broncos shined in the second quarter, fighting tooth and nail to get back into the game with senior forward Lauren Yearwood leading the way. Careless and sloppy offense hampered Cal and Santa Clara got within one point with 1:04 after a free throw from Yearwood. The Broncos scored four more points before the break while the Bears remained scoreless in that stretch. Yearwood led her team with 11 points at halftime with Santa Clara holding a 33-36 advantage.
Senior guard Tia Hay began the third quarter for Santa Clara with a trey, pushing her team’s lead to 39-33 at 8:36. Cal fought back, outscoring the Broncos 19-15 in the period. Senior guard/forward Jaelyn Brown, senior center Chen Yue, and junior forward Alaysia Styles contributed to the resurgence. Brown scored eight points in the quarter, Yue had six plus two rebounds and Styles added five points. The Bears went into the final period with a slim lead, 52-51.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth battle, but Cal persevered on the strength of hustle plays by Lutje Schipholt and defensive rebounds at crucial moments from Yue. Santa Clara had a two-point lead at 1:44 but Cal went on a 4-0 run to end the game. A free throw from Lutje Schipholt followed by a layup from the freshman from the Netherlands gave the Bears the lead that they held until the buzzer.
Overall, Cal only turned the ball over four times, all in the second half. The Bears’ ball-handling improved a great deal in the contest. Just two games ago, they were averaging 17.0 turnovers per outing. They didn’t shoot any three-pointers and had a lower field goal percentage (39.1% compared to 45.8%) than Santa Clara. However, Cal had 42 points in the paint in contrast to just 24 from Santa Clara and scored 15 second-chance points compared to just five by the Broncos. The Bear’s bench also outscored Santa Clara’s reserves 21-12.
Cal’s Brown led all scorers with 26 points plus 11 rebounds. Lutje Schipholt continued her stellar freshman campaign with 19 points and nine rebounds. Yue earned the first double-double of her career with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Every game, I am just trying to do whatever I can to get the team to win,” Yue said. “I just try and focus on all the little details because they add up. That just my mindset. Santa Clara is a really good team and we just want to take every opportunity to do our best not to waste any minutes.”
Santa Clara had four players in double figures led by junior forward Merle Wiehl who scored 19 points. Yearwood finished with 11 points plus six rebounds. Hay and senior guard Emily Wolph added 10 points each. Hay also pulled down four rebounds.
Santa Clara heads to the southern part of the state for a road trip at Cal State Northridge on Dec. 18.
Cal’s contest against Kentucky is set for 4 p.m. on Dec. 21. The game is not on the Pac-12 Networks TV slate, but a free live stream will be available.