Dec. 17, 2011
BERKELEY - The California Golden Bears had three shots in the final two seconds as they tried to erase the last of a 14-point second half deficit to force overtime, but the ball would not go in the hoop. The No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes held on for a 77-75 victory. Gennifer Brandon broke the Haas Pavilion rebounding record.
The game got off to a quick and frantic start with five lead changes and three ties in the first five minutes, with both teams shooting over 60 percent in the early going.
Junior forward Talia Caldwell put the Bears ahead on a layup with 16:47 remaining in the first half. Junior forward Gennifer Brandon converted a putback on the next possession, getting fouled in the process to give Cal a 17-12 advantage at the 15:13 mark.
The Bears five point lead quickly turned into a five point deficit after a pair of threes by the Buckeyes helped fuel a run, giving the visitors a 25-20 lead. Brandon got another and-one to tie the game for the fifth time, 25-25. Ohio State responded with a 7-0 run. The Bears ended the run on another layup from Brandon, this time on a fast break and feed to the low post from sophomore guard Afure Jemerigbe.
The Bears erased the deficit with 5:40 left in the half on another Brandon rebound and putback, tying the game for the sixth time at 34-34. The Buckeyes responded with an 8-1 run, going up 43-35 before a transition layup by freshman point guard Brittany Boyd ended the run with just over a minute and a half left until the break. The Buckeyes went into the locker room with a 45-40 half time lead.
Ohio State, who came into the game with a perfect 9-0 record, came out in the second half looking to put the game away, outscoring the Bears 20-12 in the first ten minutes of the second half.
Ohio State took a 14-point lead, 43-57, at the 15:34 mark. Cal tried a couple of times to chip away at the lead, including a three-pointer by junior guard Layshia Clarendon with just over 11 minutes remaining. The trey knocked the deficit back down to single digits, 61-52, but OSU's Amy Scullion answered in the paint on the opposite end twenty seconds later to push the lead back to double digits.
Ohio State held that same 14-point advantage, this time with the score 72-58, with 5:21 remaining.
Cal started their comeback charge with three and a half minutes left in the game. Down 12, Brandon made a layup to make it a ten-point game, 74-64. Junior guard Eliza Pierre grabbed a steal and converted a layup to make it an eight point game, 74-66. After an Ohio State miss and another Brandon rebound, freshman forward Reshanda Gray was fouled down low, heading to the stripe to make a pair to put Cal down six, 74-68, with 2:45 remaining.
After another Ohio State miss followed by another Brandon rebound, Clarendon pulled up for a jumper to make it a four point deficit, 74-70, with 1:44 left in the game.
After trading free throws back and forth, Cal was down 77-72 with 50 seconds on the clock. A quick layup attempt by Brandon, taking just eight seconds off the clock, went in and Ohio State was whistled for a foul. Brandon converted the and-one to make it a 77-75 game with 42 seconds on the clock.
Gray batted down a shot attempt by Ohio State's Tayler Hill with 23 seconds left on the clock. Brandon came up with the rebound. The Bears raced to the opposite end of the court.
The Bears had the opportunity to tie. With both teams bunched up under the basket, a Brandon layup with five seconds remaining fell short. Gray grabbed the rebound failed on a put back attempt. Jemerigbe gave the Bears one last chance, grabbing the rebound and throwing up a desperate attempt to beat the buzzer, but the ball didn't go in with Ohio State keeping its perfect record intact.
"This is a really good Ohio State team that came in here," said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "I think we did a lot of good things that put us in a position to win the game, by getting on the boards. By pushing the ball in transition and in a lot of ways playing the way we wanted to play. We just couldn't get enough stops."
For the Bears, it was another heartbreaking loss to a top-25 ranked team. The Bears are 8-3 this season, with all three losses coming against top-25-ranked teams. The Bears have lost those three games by a combined six points (lost by three to No. 16 Rutgers, one to No. 24 Texas, and two to No. 12 Ohio State).
Brandon had her third double double of the season. She already had a double double in the first half when she scored 12 points with 12 rebounds in 12 minutes of playing time. She finished the game with a career-high 24 points and a career-high 24 rebounds for the Bears. The 24 rebounds broke the Haas Pavilion record for most rebounds in a game by a single player, a record that Brandon already owned. She had 21 rebounds in the first round WNIT game against UC Davis during the 2009-10 season. The mark was two shy of the Cal record, set by Colleen Galloway who had 26 rebounds at Nevada in March 3, 1978. Brandon had nine offensive rebounds and 15 defensive boards. It was the second time this season she had nine O-boards in a game.
"We tell them, 'be who you are' and give them the platform to do it, and I don't think anyone embraces that more than Gennifer Brandon," said Gottlieb. "She was dialed in and focused and was very much 'no one is going to stop me from getting this rebound'."
The Bears, as a team, struggled at the free throw line, making just 20 of their 38 attempts. Ohio State went 17-for-23 from the line.
"I think this was a litmus test that told us that we are not quite there yet, not quite where we want to be," Gottlieb said. "We want to be an elite team. We want to be a top-10 team. We want to be where Ohio State is and where other teams are now. We're not quite there yet, but it does feel good to know that is within reach."
The Bears will finish up the homestand and the non-conference portion of the schedule on Tuesday, Dec. 20 when they host Dartmouth at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.