Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The Bears are back on the court looking to extend their four game winning streak against the potentially short-handed Utes.
For the first time this season a Pac-12 game won't be televised, but for those of you with the Pac-12 network at home, you should be able to watch the official Pac-12 stream online.
It's somewhat challenging to preview Utah at the moment, because I'm 99% sure they'll be without one of their two big stars, Taryn Wicijowski, who injured her knee 10 minutes into Friday's Stanford game. On her twitter account she said she'd be getting an MRI on Sunday or Monday, which certainly implies she'll be unavailable today. Which really sucks, both for Utah and for the Pac-12.
Utah, generally speaking, has gotten a pretty raw deal. They're actually a pretty decent team. They beat 23rd ranked, 15-2 Michigan by a stunning 18 points earlier in the year and carried a 9-2 record into conference play. Since then they're played 5 ranked teams in 7 games and have gone just 1-6. You could argue that the Utes are the 6th or 7th best team in the conference, but you certainly can't tell from their record. Brutal.
When Cal faced Utah to open Pac-12 play, Cal led essentially from start to finish, including a 12 point halftime lead. But the Bears could never quite pull away, and Utah hit enough 3s to keep the game close. The Cal victory never seemed much in doubt, even if the final margin was only 5 points.
Without Wicijowski, the burden falls on the shoulders of Michelle Plouffe, Utah's leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks will somehow have to do even more. Cal can now really focus their defense on her, double team her, and otherwise prevent her from going off.
Keys to the game
Break out of this shooting slump: Arguably, the Bears already did. They were shooting 23% at the half but shot 47% during their 2nd half comeback. But 20 minutes of basketball may not be a trend. Utah may not be a great team, but they play tough, solid defense, and they especially know how to slow a game down, which can at times be poison for Cal's offense. A solid 40 minutes of good offense and made baskets would be a wonderful thing to see.
Hound Plouffe: See above. I don't know now best to do it, but assigning Cal's best post defender to her, then making sure a guard is responsible for providing double team defense and/or shadowing her when she steps out to look for an open 3 point shot could work. If Plouffe doesn't score, Utah can't win.
Three point defense: Colorado punished Cal for iffy pressure on the perimeter. Utah has some shooters capable of doing the same thing. And against a team like Cal they will need threes to fall. We've seen mostly great three point defense from Cal during Pac-12 play, but now would be the wrong time to slip up.