BC-BKW--NCAA-North Carolina-California,1st Ld-Writethru
WACO, Texas (AP) — California has seen all kind of different plans from opponents trying to contain Kristine Anigwe, the dominating 6-foot-4 senior post for the Golden Bears.
North Carolina certainly tried, but Anigwe still extended her season-long streak of double-doubles with 18 points and 22 rebounds as the Golden Bears rallied from a 12-point deficit in the first half to win 92-72 in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
“I’ve watched a ton of film on them and I haven’t seen them play any post player like that,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I just haven’t seen them load up on the post like that. ... A lot of teams try to create a game plan for her and it often wears down in the second half because it’s hard to stay disciplined in what you’re trying to do.”
Anigwe scored all but two of her points after halftime for the Golden Bears (20-12), the No. 8 seed in the Greensboro Regional. Constantly surrounded by Tar Heels, she was 1-of-5 shooting before halftime but still grabbed 10 rebounds.
“I changed my mindset and focused on defense, something I’ve tried to focus on throughout the season and get on the glass because my offensive game isn’t going,” Anigwe said. “I can always make an impact on the defensive end, and that’s what I had to do.”
Anigwe is the only player, men or women, with a double-double in every game this season, and she also broke the Pac-12 single-season rebounding record.
Jaelyn Brown banked a 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key to end the third quarter for Cal, following an inbound play with less than 4 seconds left after North Carolina had a turnover on a possible breakaway with 3.6 seconds left.
“It was two touch passes and the shot,” Brown said. “That was a really great moment to get the energy going into the fourth quarter, which gave us a run.”
The Bears opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run and led 77-58 when Anigwe made two free throws with 5:43 left.
“Well, we gave it all we had. ... I thought they played their hearts out. We just ran out of gas,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “First half, we played pretty doggone good, and then I thought second half, you know, we got a little bit tired.”
Paris Kea had 22 points to lead North Carolina (18-15), which lost four of its last five games in a season in which the Tar Heels had wins over then-No. 1 Notre Dame and then-No. 7 North Carolina State in an eight-day span in late January and early February.
Asha Thomas led Cal with 19 points, while Brown had 16. CJ West added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Janelle Bailey had 15 points for North Carolina, while Shayla Bennett had 14 and Taylor Koenen 13.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels jumped out to a 22-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, and in the first half were successful doing everything they could to keep Anigwe from getting offensive touches or good shots when she did get the ball. Cal outrebounded them 26-15 after halftime. ... UNC was back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015 to wrap up Hatchell’s 33rd season at the school.
California: Anigwe now has 528 rebounds this season, surpassing the Pac-12 mark of 519. The Golden Bears are playing NCAA Tournament games in Waco for the third time in the six years. Like the previous two in 2014 and 2017, they won their opener. They lost to host Baylor in the second round the previous two times.
SHE SAID IT
“I’m really grateful my teammates came and had my back. We’re not a one-player team. We had effort from every person on this team. I give credit to my guards and my post partner.” — Anigwe.
A TAR HEEL FOR CAL
Before he was the rapper GQ, Quentin Thomas was part of Roy Williams’ first recruiting class at North Carolina and played all 37 games as a freshman when the Tar Heels won the 2005 national championship. He is also the older brother of Cal senior guard Asha Thomas, and was in Waco to support his sister.
“I had no clue but I think (Anigwe) had an extra ticket for him,” said Asha Thomas, who started smiling when she saw him before the game.
California plays its second-round game Monday night against top-seeded Baylor or Abilene Christian, who played the second game in Waco on Saturday.