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Cal Women's Basketball Team Gets Its First Win by Beating ASU

'I know it's only one, but it's a very, very special one' -- Cal coach Charmin Smith, after beating Arizona State

The agony is over for the Cal women's basketball team.

The Golden Bears got their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon and they did it rather convincingly in a 67-55 victory over Arizona State in Berkeley.

By winning their next-to-last game of the regular season, the Bears (1-14, 1-11 Pac-12) avoided becoming the first team in Cal women's basketball history to go through a season without win.  They also avoided becoming the second Pac-10/Pac-12 team to go through a  season without a conference victory. (Washington State went 0-18 in Pac-12 play in 2001-02. The Pac-10 began play in women's basketball in 1986-87.)

The postgame emotion

The win was a huge weight off the shoulders of Cal second-year coach Charmin Smith, whose team suffered a number of injuries to key players and had nine games postponed for reasons related to injuries and the COVID-19.

She said this one will "definitely be remembered."

"It's been kind of like the monkey on our back," Smith said in the video above. "[Assistant coach] April {Phillips] said it was a gorilla. It's been heavy.

"I'm just really relieved, and I told the team I'm just so proud of them for sticking with this. We could have quit a long time ago. We could have thrown in the towel. We could have had bad attitudes. There were so many reasons to give up, and they never did.

"I know it's only one, but it's a very, very special one."

The Bears desperately needed this one against Arizona State (10-9, 5-9), because their final regular-season game is next Sunday against sixth-ranked Stanford on the Cardinal's home court. Then the Bears will play in the Pac-12 tournament, where their first-round opponent is likely to be Colorado, Oregon State or USC.

Leilani McIntosh led the way for Cal on Sunday with 21 points while playing all 40 minutes and committing just one turnover.

"I felt like this was a great team win for us," McIntosh said. "I feel like this gives us a lot of momentum going into the Pac-12 tournament and Stanford."

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She was 4-for-4 on three-point shots, which was particularly impressive since she attempted only three three-point shots.

The fourth three-pointer was actually a pass on a play in the second quarter that might have been the turning point in the game.

"I was trying to lob it to [Evelien Lutje Schipholt] and it just went in, so . . .," McIntosh said.

While the "pass" from the top of the key was in the air, Lutje Schipholt was fouled away from the ball, and the whistle blew while the ball was in the air.  When the "pass" unexpectedly went through the basket for a three-pointer, the officials had to declare the field goal good, and Lutje Schipholt made two free throws to complete a five-point play. It turned a 19-16 Arizona State lead into a two-point Cal lead with 2:49 left in the first half, and the Bears held the lead for the rest of the game.

The Bears led by as many as  16 points early in the fourth quarter before the Sun Devils started chipping away, getting as close as eight points in the final minute. 

But Smith said she never felt the game was slipping away.

"There are times when you have a lead and it's like, 'Uh oh, here they come,' and it feels reallly, really, really bad," Smith said. "This wasn't one of those times. I don't know, we talked about what we needed to do so much and we were so locked in, and we really, really, really wanted to win this game, I didn't believe we were going to let it go. I just felt good about it."

NOTES: Cal limited Arizona State to 28.6 percent shooting for the game.

Sunday was Senior Day for Cal since it was the Bears' final home game of the season. Archer Olson, the only senior on the team, was honored after the game.

Lutje Schipholt and Mia Mastrov scored 12 points apiece for Cal.


Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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