Cal continues hot streak, holds off UC San Diego 64-54
Cal continued its red-hot streak to open the season with a 64-54 road win over UC San Diego (2-2) Saturday evening in La Jolla. Led by the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, Jayda Curry, the Golden Bears recovered from an early deficit to outpace the Tritons in a dominant first half and held UCSD off down the stretch.
It was the first time that the Tritons and Cal met since 1978. UCSD is transitioning to full NCAA Division I status and joined the Big West in July 2020. Today’s win gave the Bears a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2018-19 campaign.
First Half Dominance
Things started slowly for Cal as USCD earned an early 6-0 lead with a couple of treys. Junior guard Cailyn Crocker got the ball rolling offensively for the visitors, with freshman guard Jayda Curry and junior forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt chipping in to help the Bears overtake the Tritons to head into the second quarter with a 15-13 lead.
Cal dominated in the second period, holding UCSD to just 1-of-19 from the floor and outscoring the home team 18-4. The Bears also got to the line more often, going 6-of-10, while the Tritons just made one trip (2-2). Cal had a 33-17 advantage at the half as Crocker led all scorers with 10 points.
A Dicey Third Period
While Cal amassed a 17-point lead early in the third quarter, the largest of the game, the tide quickly changed as Triton senior guard/forward Sydney Brown stepped up to score 13 points in ten minutes after going scoreless before the break.
Sophomore guard Parker Montgomery and redshirt senior center Alex Obouh Fegue also had a prolific third period for UCSD. Brown capped the quarter with a three-point shot, narrowing the deficit to five.
Entering the last period, Cal had a slim 46-41 lead. After an 8-5 run by UCSD to begin the quarter, it was a one-possession contest with the visitors leading by a thread 51-49. At this point, Cal head coach Charmin Smith said her message to her team was “do the right thing.”
“I thought our defense was really strong in the first half, but we had some mental breakdowns and allowed them to score way too many points in the third quarter,” Smith said. “And I don’t think we were scoring enough. I think 64 is a low for us so far. I think we could have been a lot more efficient offensively as well.”
Coming into the game, Cal averaged 80.33 points per contest.
With about four minutes, Cal junior guard Jazlen Green jumpstarted a resurgence for her squad with back-to-back jumpers that led to an 11-5 run. The dynamic freshman Curry scored Cal’s last seven points, sealing the win.
Overall, six players scored for the Bears. The team’s balance is a welcome relief for Crocker, given that the squad only had a handful of healthy players last season, with each member of the slim roster logging heavy minutes.
“I think everybody’s getting the opportunity and knocking it down…and just instilling confidence in one another,” Crocker commented about the team’s depth this season.
Curry led all scorers with 20 points plus four rebounds and seven assists. Crocker added 12 points, and Lutje Schipholt chipped in a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds. The feat marked her third double-double of the season.
The Bears played without junior guard Leilani McIntosh who averages 10.1 points per game. According to the team, she has an ankle sprain, and they hope to get her back in action soon.
Montgomery paced UCSD with 14 points. She was a perfect 6-6 from the line. Brown added 13 points and nine rebounds Obouh Fegue scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
UCSD plays in Los Angeles next in a holiday tournament, the Loyola Marymount Thanksgiving Classic that begins on Friday. The Tritons will play Penn and LMU.
Cal returns home to host their own tournament, the ‘Raising the B.A.R. Invitational powered by Cal.” B.A.R. stands for Basketball, Activism, and Representation, and the tournament will also be an event to help elevate conversations around social and racial justice. Every team in the tournament has a Black woman as head coach. Furman, San Diego State, and Ole Miss are the other participants. Cal will take on Furman on Friday.