Cal women fall to UCLA 84-79

This just got real.

A Cal women’s basketball team with plans of making a deep NCAA Tournament run lost 84-79 in overtime to UCLA on Friday night at Haas Pavilion — the Bears’ third straight loss overall and a back-breaking way to start Pac-12 play.

Then, came the postgame newser — a church-like revival that made their lofty goals still appear realistic.

“The next game has to be a win,” said senior Kristine Anigwe, whose 12th straight double-double (32 points, 14 rebounds) wasn’t enough to save No. 18 Cal (9-3) on a night when it committed 19 turnovers and yielded 16 offensive rebounds. “I believe in this team. We’re going to do damage in the Pac. … We know how it feels to lose. It’s not going to happen like this again. If we lose, it’s not going to happen like this. …

“We’re not just a bunch of pretenders. We’re real. This is a different team. Our record right now doesn’t show that, but I really believe in this team. I really believe in us. OK, we lost today, but that’s not the end of us.”

Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb fought back tears as she chose to avoid commenting on two questionable overtime calls that took the Bears from trailing 76-75 with the ball to chasing an 80-76 deficit.

Jaelyn Brown appeared to win possession of a loose ball near the top of the Cal key with a little more than a minute remaining in overtime. Instead of getting a timeout or a jump ball, Michaela Onyenwere raced away from the scrum for two of her 29 points.

A possession later, Anigwe appeared to block an Onyenwere shot, but the UCLA wing was awarded free throws that she made for a four-point advantage that all but clinched the win for the Bruins (9-5, 2-0 Pac-12).

“You can’t fake this. She doesn’t have a fake bone in her body. If she didn’t believe it, she wouldn’t say it,” Gottlieb said of both Anigwe and senior point guard Asha Thomas, who added 16 points and three steals. “… This is not the situation we want to be in, but I’d rather be in this situation with these guys than in a different situation with somebody else. Period.”

Since opening the season 9-0 and climbing into the nation’s top 15, Cal has lost three in a row, but UCLA, which Gottlieb said is “a gazillion times better than its record,” did plenty to win this one.

The Bruins’ length and athleticism hounded Cal. UCLA used Kennedy Burke and her 6-foot-5 wingspan to defend the point of attack on some possessions and dart away from a guard to double-team Anigwe on others.

The first quarter consisted of 10 lead changes, including UCLA grabbing a 17-16 advantage on a turnaround jumper by Onyenwere with 40 seconds left. The game’s back-and-forth nature continued until the midway point of the second quarter, when the Bruins’ three-quarter-court pressure started to cause Cal fits.

UCLA used a 7-0 run to take a 31-24 lead with 4:39 remaining in the second quarter and used Cal’s 11th first-half turnover to get a three-pointer from Lindsey Corsaro right before the buzzer to go into the break 42-32.

After falling behind by as many as 12 points and still trailing 51-40 with 6½ minutes left in the third quarter, the Bears suddenly picked up their defensive effort and escalated the game’s tempo. They used a 15-2 spurt, keyed by seven points from Thomas and six from Anigwe, to take a 55-53 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Two Anigwe free throws gave Cal its largest lead of the game, 59-55 with 8:11 remaining, but UCLA responded with an 8-0 run to go ahead 63-59 on a Onyenwere three-pointer with five minutes left. Anigwe scored six straight to put Cal back on top by one point with 2½ minutes on the clock.

Rusty Simmons is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Rusty_SFChron

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