Cal at Utah: Preview & Gamethread

Cal will have to stop Canadian National Team member Michelle Plouffe this afternoon. - Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Bears move to 4-0 in conference play today in Salt Lake City?

When: noon PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Stream: Pac-12 Networks Utah
Gametracker

Cal plays the 7-7 Utah Utes, who are struggling through a very trying season. It started off badly with the season ending injury to F/C Taryn Wicijowski. Utah was already going to struggle to replace two seniors starters in Iwalani Rodrigues and Rachel Messer, but as long as they had both Wicijowski and Plouffe they would be a competitive team.

But, simply enough, Plouffe can't do it all on her own. She's still averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds/game, but she's not getting enough support to give Utah a legitimate chance to compete in the upper half of the Pac-12.

6'5'' freshman forward Emily Potter is Plouffe's sidekick, and she's performing impressively for a first year player, averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds herself. She would have been a perfect back-up to Wicijowski and Plouffe on the post, but she's been thrust into the starter role because of the injury, and as a result Utah is perilously thin in the interior.

Utah's best win is over BYU. As a matter of fact, Utah is 1-7 against RPI top 200 teams, with the only win that solitary victory in Provo. Most of those games weren't particularly close. This is a game, even on the road, that Cal should win comfortably.

Utah has a variety of weaknesses. With limited interior depth, they struggle to rebound the ball. They can't force any turnovers, and opponents have been getting plenty of good looks against their defense. I suspect that there is a sizable drop off when they have to go deep into their bench. Their one strength? They shoot the ball decently well and won't turn it over frequently themselves. Their only formula for victory is to slow the game to a crawl and hope the shoot really well. It's not especially likely, but it's their only real shot.

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Cal by 15.4

Keys to the game

Fouls on Plouffe and Potter: Utah has two legit interior players, and if either of them get in foul trouble Utah is screwed. Pound the ball to Reshanda and let her go to work. That's ALWAYS a good strategy, but particularly today.

Run when you can: It's going to be hard. Utah is really good at slowing a game down and getting back on defense. But that's no excuse for being passive and getting bogged down in the halfcourt. Pressing might not be a bad idea if Cal can't speed the game up otherwise.

Smothering defense: Quite simply, if Cal plays their best defense they can hold Utah to a very, very low number. Let's bring doubles on Plouffe, pack the paint, and make life miserable for them in the half court.

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