Entering the game, Arizona made a decision to congest the middle on the defensive end of the floor and force the Bears to beat them from the outside.
“We just stayed in the zone so we could clog the middle up so that Ashley Walker couldn’t get her shots,” Ibekwe said. “So it was basically, ‘don’t give her any looks,’ but we didn’t want to give anybody else any open looks either.”
That seems like a bit too much to ask for.
And while the Wildcats did limit Walker to just seven first-half points, Arizona couldn’t overcome the offensive onslaught put on by freshman guard Casey Morris, as the Bears grinded out a 56-46 win to open their conference schedule.
“We did what we had to do. We got [Alexis Gray-Lawson] in foul trouble,” Ibekwe said. “We did what we had to do as far as getting people in foul trouble and getting them to the bench.”
But while the Wildcats were concerned with getting Gray-Lawson and others to the bench, they neglected to take into account the players coming off of it.
Morris continuously found herself open from beyond the arc and, unlike the majority of the season – entered the game shooting just 3-for-16 from three-point range – the freshman converted.
The Piedmont, Calif., native scored 18 first-half points, due in large part to her 5-for-5 performance from the perimeter, and single-handedly kept the Bears on top heading into halftime.
“She saved our butts,” Cal coach Joanne Boyle said.
“If it wasn’t for Casey we would have been down 20 at the half. I think you’re starting to see a little bit of what she’s capable of. As a freshman, she’s starting to gain some confidence and really figure it out.”
Morris’ hot shooting came at a perfect time for a Cal offense that shot below 40% for much of the first half, but during the final 20 minutes of play, it would be Walker who would carry the Bears.
The senior forward scored 16 of her game-high 23 points in the second half and did a majority of her scoring outside the paint.
Walker connected on five of six 15-foot jump shots from the baseline in the second stanza, forcing Arizona post players to jump out to the perimeter and vacate the key, leading to eight points from Devanei Hampton.
“It’s huge for us. We need her to be able to extend the defense like that,” Boyle said. “Other teams are going to clog and double team us so for Ash to extend the defense a little bit, I think she carried us.”
Hampton recorded her second start of the season and played a team-high 34 minutes, but often looked out of sync offensively, finishing with a 4-for-14 clip from the field.
“She’s getting her conditioning. It’s not great, but it’s getting there,” Boyle said. “She’s only in the last couple of weeks getting the reps that she needs to get. Today, obviously she was frustrating and forcing. She has to play less frustrated.”
The Bears look for an Arizona sweep against Arizona State on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT.
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