In his weekly column, ESPN writer Graham Hays pointed out that Brittany Boyd had struggled against UCLA in her young career:
While noting she has also been on the winning end in two of three past meetings, this has been a tricky game for Brittany Boyd. Cal's point guard has been charged with 23 turnovers in three career starts against the Bruins.
When I read that, I wondered if Brittany Boyd would read the article, or if she was aware that her games against UCLA were comparatively poor by her standards. I suspect that she was very aware. Either way, she was dominant against the Bruins this time:
It sends a message to everybody," Boyd said before adding that she and her teammates are not looking past their next game Sunday against Southern California. "I would say it sends a message to USC. We came to LA to play.
She was credited with 10 steals, but even that gaudy number doesn't really begin to describe the impact she had defensively. It's really hard for a guard to control the game on defense. Your opponent can always just funnel the ball to the other side of the perimeter, or work it inside. But Boyd didn't dominate by abusing one player. Boyd picked the pocket of seven different Bruins. And those 10 steals don't even count all of the balls she jarred loose, knocked out of bounds, or to another player.
Boyd was brilliant playing off ball defense, sagging off of her player and helping without allowing her assignment to get free. She was a menace in the open court, and multiple Bruins made the mistake of trying to race by her in transition. She was in every passing lane. UCLA's offense was a complete mess in the first half, and that was in large part due to Boyd. And perhaps the most impressive part of her defense? One foul, which oddly was an offensive foul. She was aggressive and fast, but completely in control, which is something one usually wouldn't say about her game.
We're three paragraphs in and I haven't even mentioned what she did on offense, or the great performances from the rest of the team. Cal just completely took apart a solid defense on the road, and they did it despite getting nothing from their best player for a half because of foul trouble.
Gen Brandon has been flashing an improved jump shot, but she really showed it off tonight, hitting a number of tough shots from varying distances, including what had to be a demoralizing long two to end the first half. Clarendon bounced back with a strong 12 point second half. Reshanda Gray looked completely like her old, pre-injury self, and Afure Jemerigbe and Mikayla Lyles hit a few key threes. It was a complete effort from everybody on the court.
And there was Boyd's defense doing a healthy portion of the work on the other end. In all, Cal forced 19 turnovers, 15 of which were steals. True, UCLA can be turnover prone, but the Bears looked like they knew what UCLA was going to run and they were all over it. Major kudos for the coaches for preparing the players and the players for going out there and making it work. Atonye Nyingifa scored 20 points, and Cal didn't really have somebody that matched up well to defend her, but her teammates only went 11-45 from the field and nobody else was in double figures.
So Cal passed their biggest test left in the regular season with an A triple plus. Always pesky USC is up next, but after watching the Bears come out calm, composed and ready to take care of business with such authority, Cal fans should feel reasonably confident about their chances against anybody, anywhere. This was almost certainly the best effort of the season, a dominating win that gets fans dreaming about March possibilities. Lots of time between now and then, but lots of reasons to be excited in the meantime.