Amber Melgoza scores season-high 31 as Washington survives Cal in Berkeley, 67-64

Jan. 3, 2020 - Washington's Amber Melgoza.
Jan. 3, 2020 – Washington’s Amber Melgoza.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Washington (10-3, 2-0 Pac-12) began its two-game trip to the Bay Area on a high note with a 67-64 victory over California (8-4, 0-1) Friday night. Led by a stellar performance from senior guard Amber Melgoza, the Huskies held off the Bears in the last minute of the contest.

“I thought we did a nice job of valuing the basketball today,” Washington head coach Jody Wynn said postgame. “I think that was a big part of it. They turned up the pressure in the second half and we only ended up with 11 turnovers. Our bigs didn’t turn the ball over. I thought we did a really nice job of limiting our unforced turnovers.”

With the win, Washington broke a five-game losing streak against Cal.

“It feels very, very good,” Melgoza said about breaking that streak. “We’ve worked very hard throughout the spring and summer. And we were determined to win tonight.”

While Washington raced out to a 13-5 lead, Cal quickly caught up with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 15 all after a jumper from senior guard/forward Jaelyn Brown at the 3:20 mark in the first quarter. The Bears failed to score for the remainder of the period and the Huskies went into the second quarter with a 19-15 lead. Melgoza was already in double digits with 10 points.

Washington dominated the next ten minutes outscoring Cal 17-9. The Huskies shot 45.5% (5-11) from the field in the second quarter compared to 18.2% (4-22) by the Bears. Washington also made all six of its free throws in the period while Cal did not make it to the line to shoot any.

At the half, Washington had a 36-24 advantage and Melgoza led all scorers with 18 points shooting 78% from the floor and a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. No other player was in double figures.

The action turned up a few notches in the third quarter as Cal fought to catch up to Washington, getting within six points as the Bears outscored their opponent 22-16 in the period. Senior center CJ West, senior guard Sara Anastasieska and Brown led the way in Cal’s rally. Their effort was made a little easier as Melgoza sat out the last 1:21 of the quarter with foul trouble.

“Cal played very aggressively after halftime. In that third quarter, and they shot the ball really well,” Wynn said. “They got themselves to the free throw line and really did a nice job of taking the lead, and they were the aggressor.”

The Bears continued their trajectory in the last ten minutes with a balanced effort as a cross-section of six players scored in the period. After an 11-4 run, Cal took its first lead of the game since early in the first quarter. The game turned into a back and forth contest for the next several minutes.

The Bears earned their biggest lead of the game with 1:14 left when they had a 64-61 advantage. Thirteen seconds later, Melgoza ended Cal’s rally with a three-point shot to make it a tie game. The Bears put up a flurry of unsuccessful shots including two three-point attempts from freshman guard Jazlen Green.

Wynn attributed her team’s ability to hold off Cal in the last minutes to a calm demeanor.

“We settled down,” she said. “We continued to move without the basketball.”

Melgoza finished with 31 points plus five rebounds. She was the only Washington player in double digits although six other players scored from the Huskies.

West and Brown earned 12 points each for Cal. Brown also pulled down six rebounds while West grabbed four.

“We just dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half,” Cal head coach Charmin Smith said about her team’s dismal performance in the first two quarters. She added that the Bears “didn’t make enough shots and get enough stops down the stretch to get the victory.

“I think we showed a ton of fight but still disappointed that we couldn’t come away with the win.”

Both teams are back in action Sunday. Cal hosts Washington State at noon. Washington heads across the Bay to Stanford for a 7 p.m. PT contest.

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