The season debut of the Cal women's basketball team was an eerie event.
The Bears lost to San Jose State 56-48 Wednesday evening, perhaps because there was no home crowd to give Cal a boost down the stretch.
With no one but players, coaches, game officials and a few media members in attendance because of COVID-19 restrictions, Haas Pavilion was virtually silent except for the bounce of the ball, talk between teammates, instructions from the bench and an occasional public-address-system song or announcement.
"It's weird, to be able to, like, hear yourselves, echo more, hear the bench more," said Evelien Lutje Schopholt, who tied for the team high in scoring with 10 points. "I definitely miss, like, the atmosphere at Haas, because I think we have one of the best atmospheres in the Pac-12. And we're missing our fans very much.
"I think to make up for the fact that we don't have the fans, we just make sure we got to be loud to each other on the court, and we got to be loud on the bench, and then I think the fans shouldn't play a role."
All of Cal's players wore masks during their pregame warmup, and several San Jose State players did as well. The bench areas for both teams took up a lot of space because each player's chair was six feet from adjacent chairs. About 30 cardboard cutouts lined three rows behind the scorer's tackle. The three referees wore masks during the game.
Cal's starting lineup consisted of two sophomores (point guard Leilani McItosh, the team's only returning starter, and Evelien Lutje Schipholt) and three freshmen (Dalayah Daniels, Fatou Samb and Ornela Muca).
The Bears played without sophomore guard Jazlen Green, the team's top returning scorer, and freshman guard Alma Elsnitz, both of whom were injured.
Daniels demonstrated that she is the most polished of the Bears' freshmen finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds, with six of her points and 10 of her boards coming in the first half.
She admitted to having nerves before the game:
Samb went scoreless, but collected four rebounds, and Muca tallied six points on two three-point shots.
McIntosh finished with 10 points but fouled out with 45 seconds left when Cal still had a shot.
San Jose State guard Ayzhiana Basallo, a first-team all-Mountain West Conference selection last season when she averaged 18.5 points, went scoreless in the first half on 0-for-6 shooting to go along with one assist. She finished with 10 points on 1-of-12 shooting from the floor, with six of her points coming from the foul line in the closing moments.
The Spartans were picked to finish second in the Mountain West Conference in the preseason coaches and media poll.
The Bears led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but Cal's offense hit a dry spell and led by just four at 23-19 at halftime. The Spartans took their first lead in the third quarter and led by as many as nine early in the fourth quarter.
Cal reduced the margin to one in the fourth quarter, but could never take the lead.
Cover photo by Soobum Im - USA TODAY Sports
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