The Bears start another WNIT journey against the Mustangs of Cal Poly, the regular season co-champions of the Big West conference. It’s tough to compare the two teams, though for what it’s worth Cal performed better against common opponents and certainly had a more difficult schedule. As you would expect in a matchup with a smaller conference school, Cal will have a solid size advantage as Cal Poly only has one rotation player taller than 6’0’’.
The Mustangs are led by Big West player of the year Rachel Clancy, who averages nearly 17 points per game, mostly on the strength of her excellent 3 point shooting. She’ll launch six or seven 3s a game, more if given the time and space, and she shoots at a 42% clip from behind the arc. Cal’s 3 point shooting defense is amongst the best in the nation, but this could be a stern test.
Abby Bloetscher is their main post player, leading rebounder and second leading scorer. Like most bigs she can be prone to foul trouble, but considering Cal’s size advantage keeping her on the court as much as possible is a necessity for Cal Poly’s chances.
Like most Cal games the Bears should hold a sizable-to-huge lead in rebounding but their opponents take better care of the ball. If Cal can force enough turnovers to keep things even in the battle for ball possession they’ll probably be OK.
Keys to the game
Control Clancy, especially behind the arc
Eliza Pierre hasn’t been getting consistent playing time because of her offensive limitations, but if there’s ever a game that the Bears can live with that it’s this one. Clancy makes the Mustangs go, and if Eliza can take her out of her game then the Bears will be in great shape, even if they are playing 4 on 5 offense on the other end.
Domination on the offensive glass
While glancing at the numbers it doesn’t really look like Cal Poly has a player that can compete with Talia Caldwell on the glass – Talia has more offensive rebounds than any Mustang has defensive rebounds.
Hit a few shots, especially early
Duh, that’s the game of basketball. But it sure does feel like the Bears play much better when they hit a couple of early shot and get into a good offensive flow. Seeing Lindsay Sherbert or Mikayla Lyles come out with a good 3 point stroke would do wonders. The only way I see Cal losing is if they have a horrid night from the field or if Cal Poly goes nuts from behind the arc.