Mikayla Cowling doing a lot for Cal women.
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.”
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.