It's time to jump on the band wagon Cal fans! Coach Lindsay Gottlieb has been saying for two years that her team has a chance to be "elite." Well, now they are. The University of California Women's Basketball team is off to the best start in school history, 10-1, and has become one of "those" teams: a team against whom pretty good teams from pretty good conferences just don't have a chance.
As someone who has been a fan of Cal sports for more than 40 years, it seems strange indeed to be saying such a thing. But last night's 70-43 win over George Washington has convinced me. GW isn't a bad team, but there wasn't the slightest chance they were going to pose a threat to the Bears. This is not to say that the road ahead will be easy. The Bears start off the Pac-12 Conference season next week with road games against Utah (9-2) and #20 Colorado (11-0), before playing #4 Stanford (11-1) twice the following week. The Bears aren't going to go through the Pac-12 season undefeated. But this Cal team should be playing late into the month of March.
The Bears work to rebound on their own free throws -- something at which they have had remarkable success this season.
You want proof? Take a look at some of the videos I took at last night's game. Sadly, I left my fancy camera at home, so you have to make do with cell phone video. But the point still gets made. Here, the Golden Bear defense forces a turnover, leading to a Layshia Clarendon basket in transition:
Women's Basketball Cal v. GW: Solid Cal defense leads to a Clarendon basket (via lesmitch529)
The player of the game, center Talia Caldwell, had a season-high 19 points, just short of her career-high of 20, to go with 8 rebounds. Here she gets two of her points:
Women's Basketball, Cal v. GW: Talia Caldwell scores 2 of her 19 points (via lesmitch529)
The game's high scorer, Talia Caldwell, works for position
And shoots one of her successful free throws. She was 3 for 3 from the line.
The Bears are not error free, but they never give up. Here, after losing the ball, the tenacious Bears scrambled to regain possession and ended up with a Layshia Clarendon score:
Women's Basketball, Cal v. GW: Tenacious ball-handling leads to a Clarendon score (via lesmitch529)
Afure Jemerigbe adds a spectacular acrobatic basket:
Women's Basketball, Cal v. GW: Spectacular basket by Afure Jemerigbe (via lesmitch529)
Reshanda Gray muscles her way in for a score:
Women's Basketball, Cal v. GW: Reshanda Gray scores (via lesmitch529)
Late in the second half, the Bears went on a run where they just couldn't do anything wrong, and moved the lead from the teens to 30 points. Here, Gennifer Brandon caps off that run and George Washington finally calls a time out.
Women's Basketball, Cal v. GW: Gennifer Brandon's score caps a great Golden Bear second half run (via lesmitch529)
And the last minute of the game was marked by a basket by Brittany Boyd, followed by a three-pointer by reserve guard Avigiel Cohen, much to the delight of her teammates and the crowd:
Women's Basketball, Cal v. GW: Final minute, Brittany Boyd and Avigiel Cohen score for the Bears (via lesmitch529)
The game ended with what has to be every Cal fan's very favorite song in the world: Palms of Victory! Unfortunately, the sound quality of my cell phone camera is not all that one could wish, so apologies to the Straw Hat Band, who sounded much better than this.
Women's Basketball, Cal v. GW: Straw Hat Band plays Palms of Victory (via lesmitch529)
The final score. (The time on the clock is the time left for post-game autographs.)
During the post-game autograph session, I said to Mikayla Lyles, Avigiel Cohen, and Eliza Pierre that the next time I saw them, they would be beating the #1 ranked team in the country. All their faces lit up with delight, and Eliza Pierre declared: "That's the plan!" It turns out, I "mis-overestimated" Stanford has which dropped to #4 after their blow-out loss to UConn. But the plan remains the same!