Cal women snap losing skid with thrilling win over Colorado

Photo of Rusty Simmons

When Mikayla Cowling’s college career is complete, she might want to hire JR Payne as her agent.

“She’s incredible,” the Colorado head basketball coach said of the Cal senior wing. “She’s a WNBA kid, and she’ll be there next summer. She can score on all three levels. She has the ability to go get a basket. She has the ability to go get a rebound. She has the ability to create her own shot. She’s a mismatch, because she’s so long on the perimeter.

“She’s a pro, and she played like it tonight.”

Cowling looked like a pro among amateurs Friday night at Haas Pavilion, especially in closing time when she scored nine of the Bears’ final 13 points to clinch a 78-76 victory that snapped Cal’s three-game skid.

“It’s huge,” said Cowling, who had 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. “We were coming off a pretty rough weekend. These types of wins, gutsy wins, show our potential.”

The Bears (16-8, 7-6 Pac-12) rallied from five points down with six minutes remaining and then made just enough plays to secure their 13th straight season with at least 10 home victories.

With Cal trailing 68-63 with six minutes remaining, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb reinserted Kristine Anigwe — who had four fouls — and moved Cowling to power forward. With Colorado (12-12, 3-10) sagging into the paint to focus on the All-America center, Cowling scored six straight and then added a layup at the 2:18 mark to put the Bears ahead 73-72.

After Jaelyn Brown, who scored 11 of Cal’s first 17 points, made a layup to give Cal a 75-73 lead, Alexis Robinson (19 points) hit a corner three-pointer for the game’s 14th lead change. Cal’s Asha Thomas, who scored a team-high 18 points to go along with five assists, made a pair of free throws with 31.5 seconds left to put the Bears on top for good.

Robinson missed a corner three-pointer with six seconds left and after Cowling made one of two free throws with 2.6 seconds on the clock, Kennedy Leonard’s scoop shot from just outside the lane missed at the buzzer.

“This was a really important win for us,” Gottlieb said. “… There was incredibly gritty play down the stretch. …

“I really felt like our team was going to win this, no matter what — even though Colorado gave us everything that they had.”

The Buffaloes got 20 points from Zoe Correal and 16 points and nine assists from Leonard, and they limited Anigwe to 14 points and two rebounds. But Cal got just enough from the rest of the team, which showed its depth and versatility with five double-digit scorers.

The Bears trailed for fewer than two minutes during the first three quarters and led 58-56 when Anigwe was benched with four fouls at 9:24 of the fourth.

A 10-2 Colorado run put the Buffaloes ahead 68-63, and Gottlieb made the move that won the game — putting Cowling at the four-spot and letting her create from the high post.

“Mikayla is a matchup problem all over the floor, but they had been sagging off our four,” Gottlieb said. “… She was really aggressive, got to her spots and made shots.

“She gave us a huge lift.”

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