I'll have to ponder over it, but that might be the best offensive performance I've seen from a Cal team since the Bears dropped 99 on Virginia in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. You know, the best game the Walker-Hampton-Lawson trio ever played?
If Cal was a good free throw shooting team, they would have pushed close to the century mark. 55% shooting. 19 offensive rebounds. 24 free throws attempted, and only 3 of those attempts came at the end when Kansas was fouling intentionally. Considering the opposition, the stats are silly looking.
To be fair, we shouldn't mistake Kansas for a great defensive team. The Jayhawks had a middling defense last year, and what makes them competitive is their ability to make a ton of shots (And boy, did they). Even still. Cal scored 1.25 points/possession. Only against Eastern Washington have they been more efficient.
So major kudos to Kansas for almost keeping pace with the Bears. It made for a wildly entertaining offensive game, assuming you don't prefer hard-nosed defense. With 9:23 left in the first half, Layshia Clarendon hit a jumper to break a tie. For the next 24 minutes of game time, Cal led by between one and seven points. Every time Cal got a put-back lay-up, Angel Goodrich hit a three. Every time Layshia Clarendon nailed a mid-range jumper, Carolyn Davis would get a basket behind any number of polished post moves. As a fanatic, the back-and-forth was nerve-racking. As a neutral, it was thrilling.
Even still, it felt like just a matter of time before Cal pulled away. Both teams were equally good at getting open shots, but Cal was much better at pulling down rebounds and getting to the line. Finally, with six minutes left, Kansas went cold from the field. That allowed the Bears to finally stretch the lead out to nine points, just enough of a cushion to hold the Jayhawks at bay.
If there's a downside to Cal's performance, it was a defense that allowed its most points in a game so far this season, in terms of both a raw total and per possession. Kansas toyed with Cal's press and almost shot the ball as well as the Bears. If Cal hadn't brought their own offensive A game, this could easily have been a demoralizing defeat. I'm sure Coach Gottlieb will have them working on the defense in practice, though I'm inclined to give Kansas plenty of credit for some really impressive offensive execution.
The hero of the game was Layshia Clarendon, who played what has to be her best offensive game as a Bear. 28 points on just 19 shots is impressive. Kansas simply had no answer for her mid-range game, and she got into the key at will. She also knocked down a couple of threes, hit her free throws, and set up a couple of baskets for the posts when Kansas started to over-commit to her mid-range game. Clarendon so frequently defers that you forget she can have games like this when she needs to.
Meanwhile, everybody else pitched in, as Boyd, Gray, Caldwell and Brandon all finished with between 8 and 17 points. I think what most impressed me with the offense last night was the versatility. Kansas started in a man defense, but Boyd and Clarendon both blew past their defenders to score in the paint, and Kansas quickly switched to a zone. And, simply put, I've never seen Cal play as calmly and patiently as they did against that zone. The cross-court passes were crisp, the entry passes were spot on, the posts always seemed to make the right choice between attacking or passing out of a double team . . . it was some great, great basketball.
Of course, this is Cal, so they were completely willing to run whenever they got the chance, and the Bears finished with 16 fast break points. Boyd was her usual spectacular self, but credit to Brandon and Gray for some amazing open court finishes.
If the Bears can come out next week and take care of business against George Washington at home, then they'll have completed a very successful non-conference schedule, almost certainly with a top-10 RPI and multiple impressive wins. This one might end up being the most important, in part because the Pac-12 is looking pretty tough this year.