Based purely on talent, there wasn't a particularly good reason to fear a loss against Oregon or Oregon St. For very different reasons both Oregon schools are going through a rebuilding process, while the Bears nearly start a lineup full of McDonald's All-Americans. But of course, Cal has already lost some head-scratchers on the road, so nothing is a gimme.
So considering recent results, two double digit road wins is a great result. But let's be honest - these are the kind of performances we expected at the beginning of the year. As impressive and badly needed as these wins were, it's just the pre-test, and next week is the real test. The Bears are still on the road, but this time against Arizona and Arizona St., two teams right with Cal in the Pac-10 standings. If the Bears win both games they'll likely find themselves alone in 3rd place and we fans can again start concocting NCAA scenarios. Anything less and it's hard to see this season ending in anything more than another WNIT spot.
Cal 60, Oregon St. 47
There isn't a ton to say about this game other than to say that the Bears broke it open early and never let OSU back into the game. BTown85, who was lucky enough to see the game in person, said it best:
Cal started off quickly, built a double-digit lead, and then played keep away to keep maintain a comfortable cushion for a convincing win. All in all, it was a sort of boring game.
However, there's something very satisfying about a boring, standard win this year. This was a game that Cal could just lean on their big 3 of Stallworth, Caldwell and Clarendon to lead the way to victory. But let's not overlook another positive cameo from Afure Jemerigbe, who is starting to convert more and more of her aggressive forays into the heart of the opponent's defense.
Somewhat refreshingly, the Bears won this game with defense. I can't really comment on any aspect of it since I couldn't see the game, but holding a team to 32% shooting while committing just 7 fouls speaks for itself. (sidenote: I'll never understand why refs for Pac-10 men's basketball tend to whistle everything while refs for Pac-10 women's basketball tend to let everything go.) It's defense that allows you to win by 13 when nothing is falling from behind the arc, and it's a significantly more reliable trait than offense, so I'm all in favor of this trend.
Cal 81, Oregon 65
This is the exact type of game that I would anticipate Talia Caldwell to struggle in. Oregon's entire game plan to to play as fast as possible, and Talia isn't known for her speed or endurance. But no matter - Talia proceeded to turn in arguably the most complete game of her career. In 36 minutes she collected 17 points, 11 rebounds, and even 5 assists! Most importantly for Cal's success was her 8 offensive rebounds, most of which directly resulted in put back baskets. All season long I've worried about Cal's lack of depth, but this team seems to be intent on proving to everybody that they can run around at full speed for 40 minutes and end the game just as energetic as they started it.
The other major story was (again) Cal's defense. The Bears did an amazing job of defending in transition, as the Ducks only managed 10 fast break points for the entire game. If you can stop Oregon from scoring in transition they have a really tough time hitting shots in the half court set, typically settling for tons of low-percentage 3's. Oregon hit their 3's in the first half to keep the game close, but as soon as those 3's stopped falling (0-11 in the 2nd half) the game quickly spun in Cal's favor. The Bears didn't look back.
If Cal plays like they did this week on the road then there isn't any reason to think they can't get another sweep. After all, they have already beaten both Arizona schools at home by double digits. This is really the pivot the entire season will turn on. Nobody will expect Cal to beat Stanford or UCLA on the road, and everybody will assume home wins over the Washington and Oregon schools. These two games in Arizona are two of only three 'toss-up' games left before the Pac-10 tournament. It doesn't get much more important than this week in Tucson and Tempe.