Sugar Rodgers and the Hoyas look to stop Cal's early season momentum. - David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE
Cal's first huge non-conference test comes against a perennial tournament team from the Big East. The Georgetown Hoyas, fresh off a 2nd round appearance in last year's NCAA tournament, will take on the Bears in Berkeley this afternoon.
When: 3:15 pm PT
Video Stream: Pac-12.com
Audio Stream: Cal Bears All-Access ($$$)
The Hoyas started off the year two two straight wins, including an 'upset' of Delaware, who were without All-American Elena Della Donne. That earned them a spot at #25 in the rankings. They promptly lost by 15 to North Carolina to drop out of the rankings. They'll probably jump in and out of the rankings for the rest of the season as they go through the always rugged Big East.
I'll state things simply: This is a game that Cal has to win. Last year we all bemoaned the close calls. Rutgers, Texas, Ohio State, Stanford, USC, Notre Dame. Time after time Cal proved that they could compete with anybody, but nailing down those big wins proved frustratingly elusive.
But Cal is a better team than Georgetown, and they are playing at home, nearly 3,000 miles away from Washington D.C. The Bears are very serious about being national contenders this season, and that means winning games like these, and winning them without too much difficulty. That isn't to say that it should be easy, but it also shouldn't require furious comebacks or buzzer beaters. It means taking control and not letting go. We've seen the Bears do that to lesser teams. Let's see them to it against big name teams.
Players to Watch
Sugar Rodgers - The classic high volume, inefficient scorer. She averaged 18.5 points/game as a junior while shooting only 34.5% from the field. She's averaging 24 points/game so far on 38% shooting. She gets away with missing so many shots because she can hit 3s and she gets to the free throw line - a lot. whether it's Brittany Boyd or Eliza Pierre or anybody else, the key will be to keep her out of the lane as much as possible. She's going to get her points, the question is how inefficiently you can make her do it. She does everything, and I really mean everything. She leads the team in minutes, scoring, rebounds, assists, turnovers, shots, free throws, steals . . . if she's not getting her points Georgetown is doomed.
Andrea White - Georgetown's primary post, at least in terms of minutes and offensive impact. She's not an elite player in any particular area, but instead is very well-rounded - she scores, she rebounds, and she plays excellent defense with lots of steals for a nominal post player in Georgetown's pressure defense.
Keys to the Game
Destroy them inside: Last year Tia Magee and Adria Crawford combined to control the glass for Georgetown (with help from Rodgers.) Both players graduated and the post rotation for the Hoyas is in a state of flux with six different players getting a smattering of minutes inside, and Georgetown's rebounding rate isn't what it was last year. Only one player is taller than Cal's quartet. Show them that you can't mess with Pac-12 posts.
Get controlled defense from Brittany Boyd: I'd add Eliza Pierre, but I fully trust Eliza to play excellent, controlled defense against anybody. With Brittany, we know how spectacular she can be on defense. But can she play disciplined defense against an elite scorer? We've seen her emotions get the best of her a few times, and sometimes when she gets frustrated she'll try to do too much, like letting her player get by her trying to make the perfect steal. I want to see Brittany eat Rodgers' lunch, but she'll have to play within herself to do it. Rodgers knows how to draw a foul and Brittany is prone to foul trouble. That's a potential worry.
Keep scoring on an elite defense: Cal's offense has had its way so far this year, but Georgetown presents a completely different obstacle. Last year, despite playing teams like Notre Dame and UConn, they finished the season with the 9th best per possession defense in the country. They forced tons of turnovers, they forced bad shots, and they got the rebound. If they had a weakness, it was a tendency to foul too much, which is something players like Reshanda Gray and Brittany Boyd can exploit. Can Cal punish this team on the offensive glass? Can they get the ball inside to their posts? Can Layshia Clarendon and Brittany Boyd find space to drive the lane? If Cal can it will be really hard for an inconsistent Hoya offense to keep up.
The biggest challenge will be avoiding turnovers. In their loss to UNC, the Hoyas somehow were defeated despite forcing 35 turnovers. I'll go out on a limb and guess that if Cal turns the ball over 35 times they will lose.