Time: 7:00 PM PT/10:00 PM ET
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Joanne Boyle and the Cal women tip off the 2010-11 season with perhaps their toughest non-conference home game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers isn't quite at the level of the teams that went to the elite eight and final four in 2006 and 2007, but they certainly have enough talent to remain a dangerous team. And they're coached by hall of famer C. Vivian Stringer, the 3rd winningest coach in women's basketball history. Hit the jump for a look at the Scarlet Knights and what Cal needs to do to start the season off right!
Rutgers players to watch
Khadijah Rushdan, junior guard
Rushdan leads all returners in points, assists and minutes, and as point guard will likely play an even larger role on a young team this year. She's not a threat from 3, and she actually had a few more turnovers than assists last year, so it could be a favorable matchup for Cal if Eliza Pierre can pressure her on defense.
Chelsey Lee, junior forward
Lee averaged 7.2 points and 7.2 rebounds, and as Rutger's leading post threat this year more will undoubtedly be expected from her. She's going to have to try to do so against bigger Cal posts. At 6'2'' she'll be matched up against 6'5'' Rama N'Diaye and 6'3'' DeNesha Stallworth and Talia Caldwell.
April Sykes, junior wing
Sykes was a huge recruiting coup for Stringer, but has struggled to live up to her hype in her first two years in Piscataway. Reportedly she has finally embraced Stringer's coaching philosophies and is ready to live up to that promise. If that is the case she could be the key to the game if she gets matched up defensively against freshmen wings Lindsay Sherbert or Afure Jemerigbe.
Keys to the game
Can anybody hit a three?
Neither team shot the deep ball well at all, and both teams graduated their one consistent three point threat (Alexis Gray-Lawson for Cal, Brittany Ray for Rutgers). Cal certainly showed a willingness to hoist up three pointers in their exhibition win over Vanguard, and six different players sank a three. But their overall percentage (7-26, 26.9%) wasn't any different from last year. If either team can find a consistent three point stroke it will add an unexpected dimension to their offense.
Cal vs. the Rutgers defense.
Stringer and Rutgers are known for defense, specifically the 55 press, an attacking full court press that can neutralize Cal's height advantage. The pressure will be on Eliza Pierre and Layshia Clarendon to break that press. Cal showed good speed and ball movement during their WNIT run last year and they will likely need it again tonight.
Rutgers vs. Cal's rebounders
Even without an injured Gennifer Brandon Cal is an elite rebounding team. Rutgers doesn't appear to have the type of players to stop Cal from dominating the boards in the manner that they got used to towards the end of last season. If Rutgers is successful forcing turnovers out of the 55 press it will be even more vital for Cal to grab every rebound and get as many shots off as possible.