Mikayla Cowl­ing do­ing a lot for Cal women.

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - SPORTING GREEN - By Rusty Sim­mons Rusty Sim­mons is a San Fran­cisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: rsim­mons@ sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Rusty_SFChron

Things were a lit­tle dif­fer­ent at the Cal women’s bas­ket­ball prac­tices this week.

Mikayla Cowl­ing made an ef­fort to hide her seem­ingly per­ma­nent smile and put on a se­ri­ous face.

Sud­denly, de­fen­sive stances were firm, passes were crisp and there was an ur­gency to ev­ery drill.

“I’m proud of how we’re re­spond­ing,” Cowl­ing said af­ter the Bears dropped three straight games fol­low­ing the pro­gram’s best-ever 13-0 start. “Ev­ery­body is an­gry, but they’re an­gry in a pos­i­tive way. They want to come back and be bet­ter, fo­cused and in­tense.

“I’m a very pas­sion­ate per­son, and I have a lot of emo­tions in the games. I want my team­mates to know that I’m in a good po­si­tion, and they can fol­low me. But talk­ing more only helps. I’m try­ing to take that on a lit­tle more, bring­ing the team to­gether, in­stead of hav­ing the coaches do all of the talk­ing.”

The 6-foot-2 ju­nior wing al­ready does ev­ery­thing else for the team.

She leads the Bears in min­utes (32.5 per game), as­sists (5.1) and steals (33), and she’s third in scor­ing (9.0) and re­bound­ing (4.4). She rou­tinely draws the tough­est de­fen­sive as­sign­ment.

“I like to be able to go any­where on the court and to be able to help the team,” she said. “I take my job se­ri­ously. I don’t want to let my­self down. I don’t want to let my team down. I don’t want to let any­one down.

“I do ev­ery­thing I can to do my job cor­rectly.”

These are lessons Cowl­ing learned grow­ing up. Her fa­ther Larry, who was a 1981 NCAA hur­dles champ at Cal, and her mother Kathy get to as many of their chil­dren’s com­pe­ti­tions as they can.

They’ve had plenty of prac­tice wear­ing the vis­i­tors’ col­ors as they did in Ne­braska this sea­son when the Bears beat the Huskers. Cowl­ing’s old­est sis­ter, Stephanie, was a cap­tain on the Cal track and field team; Do­minique fin­ished her vol­ley­ball ca­reer among UC River­side’s all-time top 10 in at­tacks; and, af­ter lead­ing St. Pa­trick-St. Vin­cent-Vallejo to a 2008 Divi­sion IV state ti­tle, sis­ter Alex left Loyola Mary­mount’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram as the school’s all-time scor­ing leader.

“When you’re around it your whole life, you have ex­pe­ri­ence and you know how to han­dle things,” Cowl­ing said. “They paved the way for me to take things from what they learned and to in­cor­po­rate my own style.”

Cowl­ing’s style is go­ing to be tested as the No. 24 Bears (13-3, 1-3 Pac-12) play at Colorado (11-4, 1-3) on Fri­day. The Buf­faloes had been ranked as high as No. 15 af­ter open­ing the sea­son 10-0.

Cal also plays Utah on Sun­day, so the Bears headed for the altitude Tues­day to ac­cli­mate.

“Bounc­ing back is the only op­tion,” Cowl­ing said. “We’re still on the right path. We still have the right mind-set. This team is very re­silient. We still come out ev­ery game, we still play very hard and we’re still very ag­gres­sive. Our men­tal­ity is spot on, our work ethic is still there and our re­siliency is still there.

“We’re go­ing to show what we’re made of.”

Al Ser­meno / isipho­tos.com 2016

Cal ju­nior Mikayla Cowl­ing, who typ­i­cally guards the op­po­si­tion’s top scorer, also leads the Bears in min­utes, as­sists and steals and is third in scor­ing.

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