LOS ANGELES—Reshanda Gray is going to get her share of bruises. As the usually dominating post player for California, she's used to that. She's also used to seeing more than one defender whenever she catches the ball in the post. That is supposed to deter her and force the rest of her team to beat an opponent.
And while Gray scored a relatively quiet 15 points, her team backed her up as the Bears routed USC, 67-53, at the Galen Center on Friday night.
Gray scored six of her 15 points in the second half, but was supported by Cal's trio of wing players. Brittany Boyd, Mikayla Cowling and Gabby Green who scored a combined 25 points in a second half that saw the Bears (13-5, 5-2 in the Pac-12) shoot 62.1 percent from the field.
“That's not something we're not used to,” Cal coach Lindsey Gottlieb said when asked about how well her team adjusted to Gray's lack of production.
“Teams know if they don't double or triple team her she's going to have 30. We're good at playing off of that and seeing where the reads are. They did some matchup zone, and switched from man to zone, but the team that we want to be is in attack mode and take what the defense gives us. If our wings are open because they're doubling Reshanda, great. But obviously, she's going to get hers as well.
After a sluggish first half for both teams—the Bears shot just 38.5 percent from the field; the Trojans (11-7, 3-4) just 30.6 percent—Cal opened up from distance.
The Bears shot just 3-for-8 from three—2-of-4 in the second half—but they used long jumpers to ignite a run and never looked back.
Cowling's corner three at the 15:57 mark of the second half gave Cal the lead for good at 34-32. But it also fueled a long 15-3 run that allowed the Bears to wrestle control of the game from the Women of Troy. Cal's run went almost six minutes. Cowling scored nine of her 12 points in that span.
Cowling also had the dagger.
The freshman from Benicia hit a two-pointer from just inside the three-point line at the 4:19 mark to ice the game for the Bears. Cal already had control, but the body language on USC's bench suggested they were defeated as the lead stretched to 15, 57-42.
The Bears ballooned their lead to as much as 19 in the second half after a Green three-pointer with 2:18 left in the game. “Our team energy really picked up and after that we just kept rolling” Cowling said. “We kept going and never looked back.”
“That second half was one of our best, gritty efforts of the year,” Gottlieb added. “A lot of people stepped up.”
Gray, for her part, played well, considering the wall of USC players that stood between her and the basket. She finished with 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting. She made her first two shots of the game, and then went cold for the rest of it. It may have been the physicality that took her away from her usual scoring prowess.
“I'm numb. I can't feel anything right now,” she said leaning against the wall in a hallway in the bowels of the Galen Center. “USC is definitely a good team, a physical team. It was physical, but it's basketball. Basketball is a contact sport.”
Friday night's game was a matchup between two teams that did not shoot the ball well from beyond the arc. Cal came in shooting 24% threes in conference play. The Trojans came in a dire 21% from beyond the arc against Pac-12 opponents. And neither really attempted the three ball this night. The Bears tried eight three-point field goals, USC nine.
This was the first time this season that Cal attempted fewer than 10 three point field goals, but that wasn't really an emphasis for the Bears according to Gottlieb, even if they were coming off a 1-for-15 performance from three-land against Arizona.
“The emphasis is that we really do have good shooters,” Gottlieb said. “It's all about making the right read. They weren't sagging. They weren't really pressuring us on the perimeter. There weren't a ton of open threes, but we trust our players to make good decisions.”
The Bears held the Trojans to just 30% from the field during the game. Only two USC players scored in double-digits—guard Jordan Adams had 12 while Alexyz Vaioletama had 15 in the losing effort.