Women’s Basketball: Utah defeats Cal 72-66, clinches winning record for season

Basketball 9 Emily Juchau

On Friday night, 1,713 Ute faithful packed the Huntsman Center as the Utes hosted visiting Cal. The Huntsman was a pressure cooker for both teams — Utah coming off a tough road swing, losing to Oregon and Oregon State, and Cal coming off a 19-point shellacking of Arizona—both squads saw Friday’s game as one they should win.

But despite a strong effort from the Golden Bears, bolstered by 22 points from freshman forward Krisitne Anigwe, Utah pulled away with the victory, 72-66.

Utah came out strong in the first quarter, opening the period on a 9-0 run. Anigwe, the leading scorer for the Golden Bears, looked to be locked under Utah’s thumb. The Utes denied Anigwe post possession, and she finished the quarter just 2-for-6 from the field.

But soon after the second quarter began, Utah center Emily Potter picked up her second personal foul and would have to watch the remainder of the first half from the sideline. The Utes sighed a collective sigh of relief, however, when Anigwe picked up her third personal foul early in the second period, sending her to the sidelines as well.

In the absence of both Potter and Anigwe, however, Cal found a spark in freshman forward Penina Davidson. In the second period alone, Davidson put up 10 points for the Golden Bears, not missing a shot from the floor. After a strong Utah first quarter, Cal won the second, outscoring the Utes 17-12, narrowing the Utah lead to just three, 34-31.

The momentum swung in the favor of the Golden Bears in the third period in a big way. After going tick for tack with the Utes to open the period, Cal ripped off a 14-2 run, giving the Golden Bears their largest lead of the game at 49-42.

At the most pivotal point, down seven and on the ropes, Utah answered Cal’s run. With just three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Utah opened up a run of its own, outscoring Cal 11-3 to close the quarter, securing Utah’s lead 51-50 heading into the final period of play.

“We had every opportunity in that third quarter to melt,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts. “[Cal] had all the momentum going, but players made plays, we dug down and didn’t get defeated. I think that shows toughness.”

Basketball 5While Cal would make a game of it in the fourth quarter, making runs at the Utah lead, the Golden Bears would never again hold a lead over the Utes. The game belonged to Utah and its Springville native Malia Nawahine.

Following a nine-point third quarter, Nawahine came out firing again in the fourth, tying her career-high with 20 points, previously set against Cal this year. With just one minute to play, Utah held a one-point lead over the Golden Bears. As the shot clock ticked away, Utah swung the ball around the perimeter, finally stopping at Nawahine behind the three-point line at the elbow. She fired, and the ball found glass and rattled in, giving Utah a four-point lead and securing the Utes victory.

“I didn’t call that bank — I wan’t planning on doing that,” Nawahine laughed following the game.

Roberts was unable to corroborate Nawahine’s story, however.

“I did,” Roberts smirked. “We all heard her call it.”

With Friday’s win over the Golden Bears, Utah earns its first ever sweep of Cal since joining the Pac-12. Utah also clinches a winning record for the season, ensuring eligibility for WNIT play next month.

The Utes will turn around for what may or may not be their final home game of the season as they tip it off against Stanford this Sunday at 2 p.m. MST.

w.porter@dailyutahchronicle.com

@westinjay