By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – It is said that other players must increase their production when a top player goes down with an injury. The No. 22 Cal women’s basketball team was already doing that before Brittany Boyd incurred a sprained ankle in the second half of Friday night’s game against Arizona.
Freshmen Mercedes Jefflo and Courtney Range provided pivotal contributions off the bench, and junior Reshanda Gray recorded her 10th double-double of the season as the Bears rolled past the Wildcats 65-49 at Haas Pavilion.
Boyd suffered the injury with 14:29 remaining in the game and the Bears leading 54-32. Her status for Sunday’s showdown with No. 19 Arizona State is uncertain.
Cal (17-7, 9-4 Pac-12) was in complete control when Boyd went down, and much of that is because of the play of its bench. Jefflo was especially effective after entering the game early in the first half, recording three steals during a 1-minute, 11-second span that helped spur a run that turned a 10-7 deficit into a sizeable first-half lead.
“She was terrific,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said of Jefflo. “She came in and gave us some great minutes. She did what she does so well, getting into the passing lanes. She made up for others’ mistakes. As she continues to get confidence, I think we’ll see it turn into more offense. She’s capable on the offensive end. She was really, really big for us.”
Jefflo’s barrage of steals sparked a 7-0 to put the Bears back in front, 14-10. Cal simply built on to its lead from there and held a 39-24 advantage at the intermission.
The Wildcats (5-19, 1-12) had lost their first 11 conference games this season but stunned then-No. 11 Arizona State 68-49 in their previous game. But they had no answer for Cal’s inside game. Gray led the Bears with 16 points and 11 rebounds while senior Gennifer Brandon added 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
The Bears also held Arizona to 38 percent floor shooting and outrebounded the Wildcats, 44-25.
“It was a good win for us tonight,” Gottlieb said. “I feel like we’re building some momentum. We set the tone with our style of basketball – defense, transition and rebounding. I thought our defensive effort was really good. We got contributions from everyone.”
Jefflo finished with seven points, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 30 minutes. Boyd had seven points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals before being forced to leave the game.
The Bears led by as many as 25 in the second half. Arizona made the score a bit closer after Cal emptied its bench. Every player on the Bears’ active roster got into the game.
The win moved the Bears into a tie for second place in the Pac-12 standings with Arizona State, which visits Haas Pavilion for a 4 p.m. tip Sunday.
“It’s a really important game,” said Range, who had six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. “We have to come out with intensity and play for a full 40 minutes. I feel like this game will define us – who we are and what we are fighting for.”
Sunday’s game will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.