Cal 87, Washington State 70: Bears foul out the Cougars

20 rebounds. Boom. - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Four double digit scorers and 20 rebounds from Gennifer Brandon helped Cal earn an important road sweep over the Washington schools.

For 30 minutes Cal struggled with a tough Washington State team, and it seemed like the Cougars were poised to perhaps pull the mild upset. But even though Cal wasn't dominating on the scoreboard, they were quietly building an advantage that was Washington State's undoing. The Cougars were running out of anybody who could play defense inside.

Because early in the 2nd half, every single forward or center in Washington State's rotation had at least three fouls. For the entire game, Cal focused on pounding the paint, either by passing it inside to Reshanda Gray and Gennifer Brandon, or by letting Afure Jemerigbe and Brittany Boyd drive the lane. Cal missed a bunch of shots and played uncharacteristically poor 1st half defense, but the Wazzu lead was fool's gold.

And with every single interior player unable to do much of anything for fear of running out of players, Cal dominated inside to an even more absurd degree. Gray and Brandon went wild, and Cal went on a 19-0 run that turned a competitive game into a rout. By the end of the game one forward fouled out and Wazzu used a player who has only attempted 5 shots on the season in desperation.

When I say that Washington State's slim lead was fool's gold, it goes beyond the fouls they had accumulated. The Cougars started the game 6-9 from behind the arc and hit a few other long jumpers as well. WSU is a decent shooting team, but not nearly as good as they were to start the game. They were very likely to cool off, and sure enough they when 1-8 the rest of the way.

Outside shots can help you score lots of points quickly, but if a team can get the ball inside and score frequently, it's much easier to reproduce. Cal's interior dominance can be summed up easily with one stat: 55 to 27. Cal more than doubled the total rebounds for Washington State. During her time on the floor, I would estimate that Gennifer Brandon pulled down as many (or more?) rebounds than Washington State as a team.

Other thoughts

  • I'm trying to decide how much Hind Ben Abdelkader's transfer hurts. Brittany Boyd picked up her 2nd foul with 11:43 left in the 1st half, and Coach G took her off the floor. Cal immediately gave up an awful turnover and basket to the Cougars. On one hand, Hind was our best (only?) back-up point guard. On the other hand, I suspect that Cal is screwed without Boyd on the court either way. Cal probably doesn't turn it over as often with Hind running the show, but they don't score as much either. Luckily Coach G put Boyd right back in, and she played foul free basketball.
  • I'm tempted to say "Gennifer Brandon is back!" except that she was already back, having put up a few double doubles in Pac-12 play already. Her 20 rebound explosion is what happens when you combine a great player like Gen with a team that doesn't have much inside to stop her. She also played 32 minutes, which are starting minutes regardless of the official designation.
  • You can count on Boyd and Gray to score with a high degree of confidence. the difference between Cal being a decent team and Cal being a potentially dangerous team in March is the ability of Gennifer Brandon and Afure Jemerigbe to add scoring of their own. 31 points from them today was the difference between another stressful close game, and an easy romp.
  • Congrats to Reshanda for her 1,000th point! 24 points on 14 shots. She's pretty good. And as a reminder, she's made it to 1,000 this quickly despite playing off the bench for her first two years in Berkeley. That's an embarrassment of riches for Cal fans.
  • I strongly suspect that Brittany Boyd will play 40 minutes of every single game on the rest of Cal's schedule unless it's a Cal blowout, or extreme foul trouble. I suspect that she gets tired - she certainly LOOKS tired - but I can't say it ever seems to impact her play.
Huge road sweep. The Bears have put some distance between themselves and the jumbled middle of the Pac-12, and they don't have to leave the state of California until the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle. Only dates with Arizona State and USC looked to be tougher than this weekend's road games. The Bears are poised to be in excellent position come March, and they have generally been playing very good basketball since a tough loss to USC five games ago.
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