Cal 64, Colorado 43: Defense Carries Bears To Victory, 2nd Place

There are many good things to say about the 2012 Bears. Perhaps their best characteristic? They take care of business. Cal has only lost one game to a team outside the RPI top 50 (Texas) and they have consistently beaten the teams they should beat in the Pac-12 conference. That consistency has clinced 2nd place and a first round bye, and what I can only imagine will be a solid seed in the NCAA tournament.

If there's even a mild criticism of Cal, it's that they've allowed a few teams that they should beat decisively to hang around a bit. That wasn't the case against Colorado. A 16-3 run to end the half put Cal in the driver's seat, and they never relinquished control the rest of the way.

They beat Colorado this afternoon mostly behind tough, aggressive defense. The Buffs turned it over 17 times, but this wasn't a situation where they just threw the ball away. Cal forced the majority of the miscues with ball pressure and full-court defense. And when Cal wasn't forcing turnovers they were generally hounding the Buffs, holding players not named Chucky Jeffery to a combined 8-33 performance from the field. Jeffery got hers (18 points) but none of her teammates got into double digits.

The Bears were balanced on offense, with three players in double digits led by another efficient game from Layshia Clarendon. Her mid-range game was as sharp as ever and she finished with 15 points, 4 assists and no turnovers. And perhaps the best sign of all was that Brittany Boyd had a solid game with 7 assists, 11 points, and minimal forced shots or passes. After a rough homestand against the L.A. schools her play has been improved. She'll have to be at her best against Stanford and in post-season play if Cal is to reach their own potential.

Of course, it wasn't all Layshia and Brittany. Reshanda Gray has a solid game, punishing Colorado and time they were foolish enough to front her. Eliza Pierre continued to show off her new-and-improved outside shooting, hitting two 3s and another long jumper. All in all, nine different Bears scored points or pulled down a rebound, and of Cal's 26 field goals, 16 came via assists. There were times that Cal's offense stagnated (particularly when Colorado went with a zone) but by-and-large the Bears moved the ball well and created good looks.

Next up is Stanford. But before we look ahead, let's focus on an impressive accomplishment - the Bears went 12-0 against non-California Pac-12 schools, and were really only threatened a couple of times in the process. I highlight the 'non-California schools' because other than Arizona St., the four best teams in the conference have consistently been Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA over the last six or seven years. When Joanne Boyle's teams were at their best, they almost never lost games to the weaker teams in the conference, and it's a major step under Lindsay Gottlieb to get back to that consistency. Obviously, the next step is to do better against the California schools. Cal will have a chance to take that step a few times in the next two weeks.

We'll have lots more on Cal's rematch with the Cardinal, which is again another tremendous opportunity for Cal to stake their claim as a top-25 team with aspirations of a top-6 seed in the NCAA tournament. Make sure you come out for the game next week! But I'm not done enjoying a home sweep. Revel!

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