The California Golden Bears opened up a three-game home stand against the Santa Clara Broncos in a Saturday afternoon tilt at Haas Pavilion.
I've heard of this amazing dancing horse mascot that Santa Clara has, but Bucky did not make the trip across the Bay to showcase his talents. The three point game of the Broncos, however, was in full effect as Santa Clara drained 10 (of their 22 attempted) bombs from beyond the arc. However, the game took a 'live and die by the three' vibe as the ponies ended up on the short end of the 75-58 final score.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, their inside game that created 33 points for 6-4 junior center Ruta Zurauskyte in their last outing was primarily nonexistent throughout. Zurauskyte was held scoreless and attempted only three shots in the contest. Lindsay Leo also struggled in the interior, going 1-for-6 for the Broncos.
The disparity in the post led to a ridiculous 61-34 rebound advantage for the Bears, including a game-high 11 rebounds from athletic Cal forward Gennifer Brandon. Brandon had nine of Cal's 27 offensive rebounds in the lopsided effort for the battle of the boards. To be quite honest, I don't know that I've ever seen a team garner more rebounds that their opponent had points. Both teams shot pedestrian 30-something percent (Cal at 39.2%, Santa Clara at 33.8%), but the offensive rebounds led to 26 second-chance points for the Bears, a decided difference in the game.
The contest started with the home team opening a 9-0 lead in the first five minutes of play, primarily because of the lack of interior aggressiveness and accuracy by the Broncos. After Santa Clara found the scoreboard, they quickly closed the gap with the three as Alyssa Shoji and Ashley Armstrong drained long-range bombs to get the score to 11-8 in favor of the home team. It was a day of ebb and flow for the Santa Clara offense with streaky play and inconsistent scoring despite good looks at the basket.
At the 8:08 mark, the Broncos tied the game at 19-19 after a - you guessed it - rhythm three-pointer from Meagan Fulps with the assist credited to Armstrong. Armstrong followed up her only dish of the game with a defensive rebound and ensuing layup to give the Broncos their only lead. Santa Clara then went on one of their scoring lulls as Cal finished the half on a 18-4 run capped by back-to-back putbacks by highly touted freshman Reshanda Gray. Grey went on to finish with five points and six rebounds for the Bears.
The beginning of the second half saw Santa Clara go on another run, this one a 15-2 effort by the visitors, to get the contest to a one-possession game. However, Cal responded yet again in full force with a 16-3 spurt of their own. A putback from Brandon put the score at 62-46 with 6:45 to play and accounted for two of her 13 total points.
By that point the game was more than decided with both teams trading points and possessions to close the game. My takeaways from Santa Clara largely reside in their inconsistent play around the basket, the inability to hit layups and the rebounding disparity.
For Cal, some sticking points include the hustle for rebounds to create extra possessions and the dismal 50 percent (9-of-18) effort from the free throw line. Despite playing but 16 minutes and going 5-of-12 from the field, Brandon's game stuck out to me for a couple reasons. One, she tucks her shorts like Lizzie C. - perhaps even more pronounced than the Tulsa Shock rook did! And two, her athleticism makes her plays - even the misses - stick out. Her jumpability and rebounding intermixed with sometimes crazy moves (and misses) around the basket make her memorable. Another disappointment was the reported 1,381 fans in the stands - in these four Bay Area games I really have decided I'm spoiled watching the nation's best-attended conference on the regular.
Statistically, Cal had four scorers in double-digits, with Brandon and Layshia Clarendon finishing with 13 points, Talia Caldwell chipping in 12 and Eliza Pierre adding 11 in the win. Santa Clara's Shoji was the game's high-scorer with 14 points, including a 4-of-8 effort from 3-point range in the losing bid.