Enjoy highlights of Cal's wins over CSU Bakersfield and UNLV, as well as the free-style skills of Brittany Boyd!
After the excitement of Rutgers, Texas and Virginia, but before Ohio St. comes to town,we’re in the lull of Cal’s non-conference schedule. It’s a stretch of games that should provide relatively drama-free victories for the Bears, and so far so good. A 30 point victory over a struggling team like Cal State Fullerton should be expected. But it was the way the Bears demolished UNLV that was the most impressive.
The final score showed a 22 point win, but the game was over very quickly. After five minutes the Bears led by 9, after ten minutes they led by 15, and after fifteen minutes they led by 22. UNLV came in with a pretty decent resume and Cal took over the game immediately without ever giving it back. Judging from the highlights above and the stat line, Reshanda Gray successfully achieved beastmode. 23 points in just 17 minutes on 8-12 shooting is pretty beastly, and right now Reshanda is leading the Bears in points/game, points/minute and shooting percentage. That's impressive, before you consider the fact that 8 players on Cal's roster have played more minutes. Right now the main flaw in Reshanda's game is foul trouble - she's just got to stay on the court!
The other noteworthy stat of the weekend was Cal's rebound margin over UNLV. The Bears pulled down 47 boards to UNLV's 28, which is noteworthy because the Rebels have actually been an excellent rebounding team so far this year, and Cal still destroyed them on the boards. With that +19 performance Cal moved to 3rd in the nation in rebounding percentage at 63.2%. Think about that - the Bears pull down nearly two of every three missed shots. That's a crazy high advantage.
Last year Cal was a great rebounding team, and that was without Gennifer Brandon, one of the 10 best rebounders in the country. Add in athletic bigs like Reshanda Gray and Justine Hartman and it's just an unfair match-up for most teams.
It won't be like that against the better teams on Cal's schedule - for example, Cal was 'only' +6 and +9 on the boards against Rutgers and Texas. Nevertheless, the expectation should be for the Bears to outrebound every team on the schedule - even Stanford.
Last week we talked about how the difference between a good Cal team and a great Cal team might be a reduction in turnovers. Well, the bad news is that Cal turned it over 18 times in both games. The good news is that those numbers actually represent a slight improvement in Cal's turnover percentage - the Bears had been averaging about 20.5 turnovers/game. Of course, considering the quality of opposition I'd attribute that reduction more to weaker defenses. But it's a good trend in any case and hopefully the Bears can build on it as they work towards Ohio State and the start of the Pac-12 schedule.
Previewing St. Mary's and Santa Clara
The Gaels and Broncos are both solid West Coast Conference teams that should present the Bears with a decent challenge. Neither team is expected to compete for the title with Gonzaga and BYU in the expanded WCC, but neither team is a pushover either based on early season returns.
St. Mary's no longer has the NCAA's all-time leader in blocks patrolling the paint - Louella Tomlinson has finally graduated - but senior Jasmine Smith and a veteran rotation have helped maintain St. Mary's reputation as a dangerous mid-major. It should make Cal fans just a bit wary knowing that this game will be played on the road in Moraga, though plenty of Cal fans should be able to make the trip through the tunnel to watch a game in a much more intimate setting.
Santa Clara struggled last year, but a very veteran team that includes five seniors or juniors in the main rotation has started the year strongly at 6-2. They've started the season red-hot from the field, shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc, and as a result have been extremely efficient offensively. It will be an excellent test for Cal's defense, which has generally been quite effective.
These are two games that Cal should win, but neither are gimmes. If they do win them both they'll ride a five game winning streak into a week off before a huge home game against Ohio St. The Buckeyes are almost certainly going to be 9-0, and a win over a top 15 team would likely earn Cal a national ranking. But that's getting well ahead of things. Now is the time to focus on St. Mary's., Santa Clara, and finals.