Hi all. Fairly regular reader, occasional poster BearStage here - fresh from the Cal women's basketball game, having watched the beatdown of then-#3 Rutgers by the soon-to-be-top-4 Golden Bears. Just wanted to give my two cents of the game. Soon to be overshadowed by a post from someone who actually knows what they're talking about, true, but take it for what it's worth.
The first half of this game was a war. I mean, it was a knock-down, drag-out, back-alley fistfight. Rutgers has some thugs on that team. It was no joke - everyone played incredibly physical defense, bodies were on the floor left and right. Their centers were brutal, throwing elbows and shoulders like it was going out of style. Especially Rashidat Junaid, but especially Kia Vaughn. After one tough rebound, Vaughn stopped and just glared at Ashley Walker for a full two seconds before she took the ball up the court. I'm telling you, everybody in the arena felt a chill go up their spine. Rutgers' defense was tight and it was tough - there wasn't one easy inside shot to be had the entire half, and shots on the perimeter were tough to come by. That said, when Cal did have shots open, by and large they made them. Lauren Greif was sharp from the arc, taking and making quick shots when she was open. Both the shooting and passing of Alexis Gray-Lawson were effective, leading the offensive attack for the Bears. Cal's offense was very strong, defense was quite effective, the rebounding advantage was certainly ours, and Rutgers didn't shoot quite as well as Cal - all of which led to a hard-fought 28-20 halftime lead.
The second half was a different story. It looked like Rutgers put a different team on the floor, and Cal was running. The combination of consistent Cal shooting and increasingly porous Rutgers defense made it pretty smooth for the Bears. Behind Alexis Gray-Lawson, Cal went on a 22-2 scoring run, quickly building a 28-point lead at 50-22. The Bears kept a quick pace on the floor with several solo fast-break points for Gray-Lawson, thanks to lackluster Rutgers offense and excellent rebounding with quick outlet passes for the Bears. Rutgers was nervous, frustrated, and not shooting well at all. Then Cal seemed to relax a little, and suddenly nine unanswered points by the Scarlet Knights cut into that precious lead.
Cal was back up to 22 points ahead with 9:00 left in the game, but they were still trying to run the floor and take 3's at a time when they should have been slowing it down, trying to eat clock. Their lead was big, but not insurmountable, and Rutgers was more than happy to take advantage and chip into the lead. 7:30 left, and Cal was making a few defensive mistakes and still trying to run the floor. Greif was more tentative in the second half, passing instead of taking the 3's she would have taken in the first half (though she regained her confidence down the stretch). For the Scarlet Knights, the true freshman April Sykes was trying to single-handedly keep them in the game. She drained 4 from downtown in the last quarter of play - she was a beast out there. With 6 minutes left, the lead was down to 15 points, but Cal took care of business from there, ending the game with a resounding 66-52 victory.
What I took away from the game:
Man, Cal is good. They were very composed in this game against a highly touted Rutgers team, and the result was a good old-fashioned ass-whoopin' - pure and simple. Rutgers brought some of the most physical defense I've ever seen, and Cal not only stood up to it, but ended the half with an 8-point lead. They continued to make tough points and take advantage of key situations in the first half. In the second half, they put on a clinic. Gray-Lawson had fast break after fast break where she was halfway to the basket before anyone could touch her. Her passing was great and she had quite a few rebounds as well - a great all-around performance. Walker crashed the boards and shot strong down low, another strong showing from her. Cal had the skills to pull away when Rutgers fell apart, but also didn't lose their heads when Rutgers' press returned and made Cal fight through a few mistakes to keep the lead. Boyle didn't call too many time-outs, which I thought showed that she trusted her team to make the adjustments they needed to make. They shot well, won the battle of the boards, and looked every bit like the top-4 team they'll soon be.
Rutgers didn't look like a #3 team. The Scarlet Knights were mad impressive on defense in the first half, but it fell to pieces in the second half, and their shooting was subpar for most of the game. It felt like they wanted to physically intimidate the Bears and make them back down, but when that didn't work, they didn't have a plan B. There weren't a lot of lead changes like you'd see in a closely contested matchup between two highly ranked teams - in fact, I'm not sure that Rutgers ever held the lead. I'd call this game a learning experience for them, to be sure.
Cheer SF - yeah, I'm not a fan.
Walker and Gray-Lawson are awesome. 'Nuff said.
Cal dominated this game handily without Devanei Hampton or Rama N’diaye. Think about that.
Okay, I've yammerered on enough, I'm sure. Apologies if it's too long, too repetitive, discombobulated, etc. Long story short, Rutgers got their asses kicked, Cal is awesome. Also, I saw Michael Silver leaving the game. I wanted to say hi, but he was busy with his 3 kids.
Go Bears! BEAT STANFURD!!!