Cal turned in an uncharacteristically bad defensive performance in Oregon State’s 80-52 win at Haas Pavilion on Saturday night.
The Cal women’s basketball team was used to playing tough defense and losing to teams in the last few minutes of games. Before playing the Beavers, Cal held opponents to just 58.2 points per game and a 40 percent field goal percentage in compiling a 5-9 record. This time, an opponent jumped on the Golden Bears from the outset and gave them their 10th loss.
Sparked by star guard Felicia Ragland, Oregon State shot 48.5 percent and scored from the outside, from the inside and in transition in the Bears’ 28-point loss, its most lopsided defeat of the season. Ragland and teammate Leilani Estavan each scored a game-high 14 points, while post players Hollye Chapman, Brina Chaney and Ericka Cook combined to score 27 points.
Cook, often passing to Chapman and Chaney, wound up with a career-high eight assists.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer said. “The one thing we talked about taking away – Ragland will get her points, but we have to take away their high-low game. That was a focus we had. We did not do that, and I think they probably remembered last year. We beat them twice.”
“I am very glad that we have another shot at them [Feb. 7 at OSU], because I think we’re better than we played tonight and I hope our team wants to have another shot at them. I hope they’re willing to fight to get another shot at them.” Horstmeyer added. “It is completely unacceptable to get beat by that many points.”
The Beavers’ 80 points marks the first time an opponent scored 70 or more against Cal. USC and Cal Poly had the previous high of 69. The Women of Troy defeated Cal, 69-53, on Dec. 28, and the Bears edged the Mustangs, 71-69, on Nov. 20.
Cal also turned over the ball 28 times, which was the sixth time in the last seven games Cal has had at least 26 turnovers.
There were few bright spots in the loss, but they included the play of Cal point guard Kristin Iwanaga and reserve forward Audrey Watler. Iwanaga shot 3-for-6 from the field, including 2-for-2 from the three-point line, and made two free throws to lead the Bears with 10 points. It was only the third time this season – and only the first time since the second game of the season – that Iwanaga has scored in double figures. Watler was active in her 14 minutes, shooting 3-for-3, grabbing three rebounds, blocking one shot, assisting on one basket and picking up one foul.
If Cal is going to have any success this season, it obviously needs to get back to its normal defensive excellence. But it also needs players other than season leading scorer Ami Forney, who had just 8 points vs. OSU, and LaTasha O’Keith, also with 8 against the Beavers, to hit some shots. Both Iwanaga, who often doesn’t look to shoot, particularly from the perimeter, and Watler, who has mainly provided good defense and rebounding in her limited minutes off the bench, have the potential to be scorers.
“I thought (Iwanaga) fought, and K.I. hit some big shots,” Horstmeyer said. “I like the fight that K.I. has and I want K.I. to continue to fight that way. And we need players to play with her who will fight.
“Audrey has fight, and she is a scorer and has a scorer’s mentality. It’s just taken her time to know what I want and what we want with our team.”
Despite suffering her 10th loss in 11 games, and this one of the blowout variety, Horstmeyer wasn’t willing to concede that the season was over. Cal was in a similar hole last season, Horstemeyer’s first in Berkeley, when the Bears had a 6-11 record. They won their next five to even their record.
This season, they also have the first Pac-10 tournament to look forward to. She talked about giving more minutes to players who hustle, reserve players like Watler, Luana Coloma and Olga Volkova.
“We can hang our head right now, but we recruited winners,” Horstmeyer said. ‘”Winners don’t hang their heads and winners will fight.”