#7 Utah (63) v. #10 California (66)
With their teams’ tournament lives hanging in the balance, Emily Potter and Kristine Anigwe found themselves in an unusual position on Thursday.
The pair of All-Pac-12 selections spent the waning moments of the fourth quarter — and the overtime that followed — seated on the bench, fouling out within 15 seconds of each other with less than two minutes to play.
In regulation, the matchup between the Potter and Anigwe was everything it promised to be. Potter finished with 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Anigwe had her 12th double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
“Those are two post players that can’t be guarded one on one,” said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “I thought that they took turns going at each other, and they were the focal point of the others’ defense quite a bit, and we were just fortunate that the rest of our players were able to make enough big plays.”
After Anigwe led Cal’s second-half comeback — from an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter — she could only watch as her teammates picked up the slack in a 66-63 overtime win against the Utes.
With the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year out, forward Mikayla Cowling would play the role of hero not once, but twice. With seconds remaining in regulation, the 6-foot-2 forward tied the game with a lay-up.
And with the score tied at 63 late in overtime, it was Cowling again with a key basket to put the Bears ahead for good, nailing a short jumper as the shot clock expired.
With the loss, Utah is likely destined for a WNIT bid, while Cal likely still need a run to the championship to have a shot at any sort of postseason play. If the Bears are to continue their run further into the weekend, they’ll have to take better care of the basketball (18 turnovers on Thursday), and likely shoot better from the free-throw line (13-of-19).
The win was also Cal’s first conference victory away from Haas Pavilion this season.
#6 Oregon (68) v. #11 Arizona (74)
If it wasn’t apparent before just how much Oregon would miss Jillian Alleyne, it certainly is now.
Without the Pac-12 co-player of the year, the Ducks were dominated on the boards by an Arizona team that finished 10th in the conference in rebounding margin. And while Arizona finished with 10 more rebounds on the night, it was particularly apparent on the defensive glass, with a 22 to 14 margin.
Oregon cut its deficit to six mid-way through the third quarter, but a three at the end of the period had the Wildcats back up by 13. The Ducks again chipped away in the fourth quarter, but trading baskets wasn’t enough as the Wildcats closed out a 74-68 win.
LaBrittney Jones led the Wildcats with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while grabbing eight rebounds. Breanna Workman and Malena Washington both finished with 14. Arizona also benefitted from its best shooting performance (48.2 percent from the field) since a mid-December non-conference win over Louisiana Tech.
“They shot lights out,” said Oregon head coach Kelly Graves.
In Alleyne’s absensce, Lexi Petersen and Maite Cazorla picked up the scoring slack with 23 and 19 points, respectively, while Jacinta Vandenberg chipped in 14 with eight rebounds.
“My game plan today was to be a scorer,” Vandenberg said.
For the first time since early December, the Wildcats have won back-to-back games, and hope to carry that momentum forward, as head coach Niya Butts lives to lead another game.
“We’re making some plays,” Butts said. “… We’re defending the way we need to when we get in those crucial moments, and when you have that, you have an opportunity to win. But the players, they’ve stepped up and made plays. That’s who’s responsible for it, and they’ve done a good job down the stretch, so I’m proud of them”
Jones said the close win over USC last week helped the team down the stretch today.
“We learned from that, and so today when the same thing happened, we were able to stay poised, and I think that’s how we got the win,” she said.
Meanwhile, the loss for Oregon likely means the Ducks won’t go dancing, despite a 20-win season.