By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – Brittany Boyd has exhibited tremendous growth as a person and basketball player throughout her Cal career, but those changes have taken exponential strides since the end of last season.
Now a leader with an increased maturity, Boyd is being counted on to elevate her game and her teammates’ in times of need.
Locked in a tense battle with upstart Oregon State in their Pac-12 opener on Friday night, Boyd made every big play when the Bears needed it most. The junior point guard finished with a season-high 25 points, seven rebounds and seven steals to lift the Bears to a 72-63 victory at Haas Pavilion.
“I’ve said it over and over – the amount of growth this young woman has made is unbelievable,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I don’t think her numbers had displayed that, but these games aren’t surprising to us. She was able to control the game with her style of play. It’s probably the most complete game we’ve seen from her this season, but it’s a byproduct of a lot of other things she has done this season and her work behind the scenes.”
The Bears (9-3 1-0 Pac-12) extended a five-point halftime lead to eight points early in the second half, but the Beavers came back to take a 48-45 lead with 6:26 to go. That’s when Boyd began to will Cal to the victory. Her three-point play at the 5:42 mark tied it, and then her steal and coast-to-coast layup put the Bears in front 54-49 with 4:22 to go, forcing an Oregon State timeout.
Boyd forced a Beavers turnover immediately out of the timeout and scored in transition again to make it 56-49.
“I was just focused in on my defense,” Boyd said. “As my defensive intensity picked up, things got a lot easier for me. It was me just focusing in and understanding what we are playing for at the end of the day. I took it personally."
The Beavers (8-5, 0-1) had it down to 56-53 with 2:52 left, but forward Reshanda Gray nailed a jumper and then Boyd came up with another steal, this time feeding Courtney Range in transition for a 60-53 advantage at the 2:09 mark.
“I’m proud of that win as any one we’ve had in this building,” Gottlieb said. “This was a test for us. I thought we made a statement today about how we play and what kind of team we are. It was a good team win against a very good team. I think Oregon State is an NCAA Tournament team, and I think they are going to continue to prove that.”
Gray added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Bears while Jemerigbe had 12 points, including a crucial 3-pointer that gave Cal a 63-55 lead with 1:36 to play.
The Bears held the Beavers to 32 percent floor shooting, including 29 percent from 3-point range. Oregon State entered he night ranked 14th in the country with a .394 3-point percentage, but after making five of its first seven 3-point attempts, it went just 2-for-18 from beyond the arc the rest of the way.
At one point, the Beavers missed 17 of 18 shots overall
“I told the guys to get out and pressure more from the 3-point line” Gottlieb said. “It’s nice as a coach when you feel like you can do that. You can make tactical adjustments, but when you can just tell players to do what they are doing but do it better. …I thought they really bought into that. We gave them a couple early, but we tightened up and made it a little tougher for them.”