Cal’s rough season continues to get rougher with a Friday night game against the #9 Bruins (who, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, are directly behind the same Notre Dame team they beat on the road). The Bears actually played one of their better games of the season against UCLA in Berkeley, but missed free throws doomed a potential comeback bid and lost by nine.
The good news is that UCLA isn’t generally the type of team to win in a blow out. Their slow down style generally keeps games low-scoring, so if they’re not hitting a ton of shots they won’t run away with things. The bad news is that UCLA’s defense makes it extremely difficult to score enough to win. Cal has certainly seen that in their last three games against Nikki Caldwell’s charges.
I’ve discussed in depth over the last two seasons about how poorly Cal matches up with UCLA. If the Bears won today it would arguably the biggest upset in the Pac-10 this year. But there’s always hope when a team has as much talent as the Bears, unrealized as it may be.
When UCLA came to Berkeley it was their mid-range game that gave Cal fits. Darxia Morris in particular constantly found space on the court to hit runners and pull-up jumpers. DeNesha Stallworth had one of her better games, winning the inside battle for the Bears, but UCLA’s guards outplayed Cal’s backcourt to win the game.
UCLA wins with solid play across the board. If an opponent is having an off-night, they will find a way to exploit it. All five starters average at least 8 points a game and each are capable of scoring more if they are given the time and space to do so. The Bears will have to respond with strong play from every position and from the bench. No unforced turnovers, no defensive lapses, no missed box-outs: UCLA will punish them all.