Cal Women's Basketball At Utah: Preview & Gamethread

Time: 1:30 pm PT
TV: FSN/CSNBA
Radio Stream: Cal Bears All Access
Gametracker

After an absurd turnaround allowed Cal to escape Boulder with a win, the Bears travel 1,204 feet lower to Salt Lake City to take on Utah at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. AND IT’S ON TV!

The Utes enter with a record of just 8-7, 1-3 in conference, which is somewhat disappointing for a team voted to finish 5th in the preseason conference poll. Admittedly, Utah doesn’t have any truly bad losses – Colorado and Washington St. all look like decent or better conference teams – but they don’t have any good wins either. The Utes have only defeated two teams with a winning record, and I don’t think Idaho St. and Washington are expected to make much noise.

Utah is led by a pair of sophomore forwards, Michelle Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski. Cal fans who saw the Bears defeat Utah by 10 in the WNIT two years ago may remember Wicijowski and now-senior guard Janita Badon, who combined to score 30 of Utah’s 54 points in that game. The 6’3’’ Wicijowski missed last season with an injury but has returned to pair with 6’4’’ Plouffe to form an imposing front court that averages 27 points and 17 rebounds per game.

Tempo Free Chart

Our computer overlords predict: Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 3.5 points

Chart concept borrowed from MGoBlog, all stats courtesy of wbbstate.com and are accurate as of 1/15. Stat glossary found here. One letter indicates 10 place advantage in national rankings, two letters indicate 100 place advantage, three indicates 200 place advantage, etc.

Category Cal Ranking Utah Ranking Advantage
Cal eFG% vs. Utah Def eFG% 123 21 UU
Cal Def eFG% vs. Utah eFG% 113 51 U
Cal TO% vs. Utah Def TO% 103 335 CC
Cal Def TO% vs. Utah TO% 190 39 UU
Cal Reb% vs. Utah Reb% 2 162 CC
Cal FTR vs. Utah Def FTR 125 97 U
Cal Def FTR vs. Utah FTR 128 151 C
Cal O-PPP vs. Utah D-PPP 43 74 C
Cal D-PPP vs. Utah O-PPP 76 60 U

The stat chart actually indicates a very even game, but there’s one key fact missing: strength of schedule. Utah has played the 104th most difficult schedule, compared to Cal’s 34th most difficult. Still, Utah does enough things well (and Cal is shaky enough on the road) to make this a dangerous game.

What the Utes are is disciplined. They shoot the ball well, they don’t turn the ball over, and they make shots tough for their opponent. What they don’t do is force turnovers or rebound particularly well. Considering their frontline height, it’s a bit of a surprise. But when you consider that Plouffe has attempted 54 threes – 2nd most on the team – it perhaps indicates that she’s not your classic 6’4’’ inside bruiser constantly fighting for rebounds.

Keys to the game:

1. Take good shots - Utah is going to slow this game to a crawl, which makes every possession and shot that much more important. Cal can't afford to waste scoring chances this afternoon.

2. Great defense from the bigs - It's about Plouffe and Wicijowski for the Utes, and they might present some matchup challenges. Plouffe's ability to step back and hit 3s means she must be defended outside. If Cal can lock them down inside and out the Bears will likely cruise.

3. Absolutely dominate the glass - True, this is Cal's key every game. But it seems particularly important against a good shooting team that defends well. Per usual, Cal will likely require offensive rebounds to score consistently. Cal 'only' outrebounded Utah by 9 in the WNIT two years ago, so a dominant game is not a given.

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