Did you all enjoy the great SBN blackout of aught-twelve? Here's your mid-first half gamethread!
Conventional wisdom might refer to this game as a ‘trap game’ with Arizona St. up next on the schedule. I have a hard time seeing it that way. Arizona is in last place in the Pac-12 and has just a 1-3 home record despite a home schedule that can charitably be described as ‘forgiving.’ Even on the road this is a game Cal has no business losing, particularly against a team the Bears have dominated in recent years. Cal has not lost to Arizona since January of 2006, and their last four wins have come by an average margin of 14 points. Cal matches up well against the style of play preferred by Wildcat coach Niya Butts, and recent results have reflected that.
Arizona has struggled this year largely because they still can’t play defense. But after going 10-8 in conference last year, Arizona has fallen to last place because their offensive production has declined as well. Last year the Wildcats could at least outscore their opponents – this year even that option is rarely on the table.
The main offensive threat this year is Davellyn Whyte, who has improved her efficiency despite an increased role in the offense by drawing more fouls and shooting better from 3 point range. Her 18.2 points and 6.6 rebounds are critical to Arizona’s success. Beyond that, sophomore Erica Barnes has done a decent job replacing the mammoth shoes of departed senior Ify Ibekwe, and sophomore guard Candice Warthen has turned into a pretty efficient scorer.
Arizona’s real problem is a lack of depth – only 6 players play consistent minutes. There are only three true post players on the entire roster, and that means there is tremendous pressure on Barnes and freshman Aley Rohde to produce and avoid foul trouble. Cal’s ability to throw out four excellent post players should be a huge matchup advantage for the Bears. Cal should cruize, but weird things happen sometimes. Go Bears!