When: 6:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
This is a big one. Win this game, and Cal will create a bit of separation between themselves and the rest of the pack chasing Stanford. Lose and we’re just another team in the scrum, destined to fight for 2nd place at best. That and losing to USC is always painful, no matter the circumstances.
Cassie Harberts and Ariya Crook. That should be enough to scare you. USC’s star duo have certainly had their fair share of great games against Cal, and slowing down a duo that combine to average more than 30 points/game.
Alexyz Vaioletama, Brianna Barrett, and Jordan Adams round out the rest of the typical starting lineup, but this is another team that likes to go deep into the bench, with nine players averaging more than 10 minutes/game
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 4.8
Keys to the game
Break them down in the half court – USC is playing slow, deliberate basketball with excellent half court defense. I want the Bears to get out and run, and I’m sure that they will do so when given the opportunity. But this probably isn’t the type of game that they’ll win if they aren’t at least reasonably efficient in the half court set. Be patient but not passive, take good shots, and let’s get a few offensive boards too.
Limit secondary scorers – Harberts and Crook will score in double figures. It’s gonna happen. They’re too talented and take too many shots to shut them down. But if you stop USC’s secondary players from having a meaningful impact on the game, the duo won’t be able to score enough to win it. Vaioletama and Barrett need to be kept in check.
Foul trouble for Harberts – The only exception to what I said above is foul trouble. Harberts is everything for USC. She’s the only player who plays more than 30 minutes/game, and she takes way more shots than anybody else. Depth behind her is very unproven. If Reshanda Gray or an attack minded Brittany Boyd can get her in foul trouble, USC is in deep trouble. It’s a long shot because Harberts is a smart defender, but it would be decisive.