I joke in the headline, but Cal didn't win today's game because they shot better from 3 (though they did, if ever so slightly). both teams made it rain from deep. The real difference? Cal had Reshanda Gray, and Washington didn't. Cal's monster on the block was the only consistent interior presence on either side in a guard oriented game, and her 14 second half points keyed Cal's comeback in a tough road win.
For Gray it was an impressive bounce back performance after being stifled with constant double teams and foul trouble in back-to-back games against Stanford. Gray had to shake off a tough first half but finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs.
Meanwhile, to support her four different Bears hit 3 pointers, highlighted by Mikayla Lyles' four triples. Adding Lyles to the starting lineup and giving her more playing time has paid immediate obvious dividends both in terms of the shots she hits and the space it opens up for other players on offense. It's rather obvious, but Cal probably doesn't win this game without Lyles.
Cal's defense was, for the most part, quite good. The Bears completely controlled the paint, and when Washington wasn't hitting 3s their offense really struggled to score. For the game the Huskies shot just 11-41 (27%) on two point shots, managed only five offensive rebounds and rarely got to the foul line. It's really odd to see a team make as many threes as they do twos, but that's what Cal's defense did to Washington.
Honestly, I'm not even that frustrated with UW's success from deep. Most of the damage was done by Jazmine Davis, who hit some crazy shots with arms in her face. Talia Walton took advantage when she was guarded by a Cal post, but she doesn't typically shoot that well anyway. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team for hitting shots. Cal did a good job of taking care of what they could control.
Luckily, Cal's shooters matched the Huskies nearly shot for shot.
- Brittany Boyd was one rebound and one assist away from a triple double. Damn it, she's going to get one eventually. But in a game that saw her score, rebound and assist, it was her steals that were somehow the most impressive. She completely bamboozled Kelsey Plum on the baseline for one steal, then basically ended the game when Plum let the ball get just a bit away from her body on the final, decisive possession. Frankly, I thought she had more like 5 or 6 steals, but I guess I'll defer to the official scorer.
- Gennifer Brandon is looking more and more like Gennifer Brandon, and she has basically been playing starter's minutes even if she's not officially starting yet. Another double double, with a whole ton of defensive boards. I don't think this Cal team will ever dominate the offensive glass the way last year's Cal team did (that was mostly Talia Caldwell) but with both Gray and Brandon the defensive glass isn't really a worry anymore.
- Mercedes Jefflo appeared to hurt her ankle midway through the 2nd half and never returned to the game, although she was on an exercise bike and didn't seem to be hurt too badly. It's something to monitor, however, as Cal's guard depth is a little iffy after the departure of Hind Ben Abdelkader.
- Either college basketball needs to install an 'advantage' rule or they need to get serious about calling intentional fouls. Twice, Cal defenders stole the ball and were going to get uncontested layups, but twice the refs blew the play dead for common fouls on the breakaway player, and it could have been very costly for the Bears. Luckily, I don't think it made a significant impact to this particular game.
- Cal ended the game on a 24-11 run, which roughly started when they realized that UW couldn't stop them inside. Over the last 11:30 of the game, Cal won the rebounding battle 17-7 and attacked the paint relentlessley. The Huskies could only hoist up 3s and hope they never missed.