Women’s basketball: Utes fall to Cal in OT thriller in first round of Pac-12 tourney

womens basketball 15 Justin Adams

The Utes battled in Seattle on Thursday afternoon as they faced Cal in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, but it wasn’t enough — the Golden Bears defeated Utah 66-63 in an overtime thriller. Freshman forward for the Golden Bears Kristine Anigwe led all scorers with 18 points and added 14 rebounds as well.

“It’s going to sting — we had visions of making a run deep into the tournament,” said Gavin Petersen, assistant coach for the Utes, in an interview with ESPN700. “But in the grand scheme of things this will help us moving forward. It’s too bad it’s the end of the season, but we’ll learn from it next season.”

Despite the loss, Utah led a balanced offensive attack, with four of its five starters scoring in double digits. Leading the way were Malia Nawahine, Paige Crozon and Emily Potter — who fouled out of the game before the overtime period — with 14 points each.

Both teams battled through a defense-oriented first quarter. Utah pulled away from the Bears early, putting together an 8-0 run. But Cal quickly answered, closing the first quarter by outscoring the Utes 9-3.

Tied at 13 apiece headed into the second quarter, Utah opened up the gates on offense. The Utes outscored the Golden Bears 17-11 in the second quarter in a balanced offensive flow with five Utah players putting points on the board. A Tanaeya Boclair three-pointer late in the quarter spurred a 10-0 Utah run as the second period came to a close.

At halftime, the Utes felt good about themselves, leading Cal, who they’d swept during the regular season, 30-24. Dismal foreshadowing loomed, however, as Cal won the rebound battle in the first half, 19-16. Rebounds have been a significant indicator for how Utah performs all season — they won nearly every game in which they outrebounded their opponent and lost most in which they didn’t.

The Utes looked poised for victory opening the second half, putting together their best offensive quarter of the game in the third period with 18 points. The Golden Bears responded with a similar offensive output, also ending with 18 points.

Heading into the final period of play, the Utes sat comfortably with a six-point lead. But in the fourth quarter Cal put together its strongest performance of the game and flexed the muscle that earned the Golden Bears their national ranking earlier this year.

Cal opened the quarter outscoring Utah 14-9, trimming the Utah lead to just a single point. As the game clock ticked down, the Golden Bears continued to attack the basket and earn free-throws. With just under three minutes to play, Cal sophomore forward Mikayla Cowling earned a trip to the stripe after being fouled by Potter. Cowling tied the game at 53 apiece, and the battle raged on.

With the seconds winding down, Cal led Utah 55-54. With just 10 seconds remaining in regulation, Utah wing Nawahine rose up for the jumper, earned the hoop and the harm putting the Utes on top 56-55 with a chance for one more at the free-throw line. Nawahine made her free throw, and Cal would finish with the final possession.

With just seven seconds on the clock, Cowling came through in the clutch again for the Bears, hitting the buzzer-beating jumper to tie the game. The game was headed to overtime.

Both teams went blow for blow in the extended period of basketball, with Cal jumping out to a three-point lead. But with 50 seconds remaining in the period of free basketball, Crozon knocked down just her second made three-pointer of the game in 10 attempts, tying the score at 63 apiece.

As the shot clock wound down on the other end, Cowling again stepped up for the Bears, knocking home the jumper to give Cal a 65-63 advantage. Utah would play with the final possession and with just 10 seconds remaining on the clock, Cal’s MaAne Mosley swiped the ball from Utah floor general Dani Rodriguez. Mosley was fouled going the other way and split her free throws, giving Cal a 66-63 lead.

With no timeouts remaining and just eight seconds on the clock, Mosley’s second free throw rimmed off, and Utah had to scurry for the final shot. A Fatuesi rebound turned into a Crozon heave at the buzzer, but the shot was no good.

With its loss Thursday, Utah’s season is officialy over, pending an invitation to the WNIT.

w.porter@dailyutahchronicle.com

@westinjay