This is the open thread for tonight's game (9:30 PM EST, 6:30 PM PST on ESPN Classic in regional markets, as well as ESPN360.com), but before we get to that, let's talk about the Fresno State game and what Cal did to put on the 70-47 rout.
Enough cannot be said about the Bears's defensive effort Saturday night. After getting torched by USC last Saturday from beyond the arc, the Bears came back with a vengeance and denied the 3 point ball almost the entire way, giving up only four made shots and contesting most of every one. FSU only shot 32 percent and their leading scorer Jaleesa Ross was off most of the night. The Bulldogs were better known for the three ball than the Trojans though, so it was easier for Coach Boyle to play it up straight.
"The game plan was to take away the three," said Cal Coach Joanne Boyle, who was content to let the Bulldogs guards drive and watched them fail to capitalize.
"We just missed layups," Fresno State Coach Adrian Wiggins said. "A missed layup deflates you as much as a three or a dunk inflates you."
And of course we have to talk about Ashley Walker, who dominated both sides of the court. Her statline of 21 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal doesn't do enough to reflect her dominance. Her presence in the paint actively seemed to bother Fresno State's drive game, which never got in sync with 21 turnovers.
Other notes from the game:
- Devanei Hampton lost track of her game early with the foul trouble, and never really got back into the flow of it. Moreover she seemed to externalize her frustrations late with a foul or two she didn't really need to pick up. Thankfully we didn't need her to step up big against Fresno, but hopefully she'll recover and get back on it tonight.
- Although it felt like we nailed more jumpers than we did against USC, in the end Natasha Vital and Alexis Gray Lawson only combined to shoot a combined 7-23. Gray Lawson is an alarming slump from downtown, only 2-18 from 3 point territory since she sprained her knee in the UCLA game. Cal only shot 5-23 from beyond the arc overall. Lauren Greif was more consistent with the stroke: 3-5, 11 points, 2-3 from downtown.
- Thus, the strategy it seems going forward is to not just get the ball to Walker deep in the post, but to get it to her quickly. Defenses are content to sink in on the paint, throwing in three/four bodies in on Walker. When that happens, the best strategy would be to kick it out to wide open jump shooters, but with Cal's perimeter shooters struggling, Coach Boyle seems content to let Walker and Hampton muscle their way to victory. If Greif and either Gray Lawson or Vital can get going from the outside, then the Bears should be in much better shape going forward.
Look, we all know that Virginia is a great state. It's for lovers. It's for hustlers. And right now, it's for women's basketball.
Because the Cal Women's Basketball team faces off against the Virginia Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament. Cal was to face off against the Virginia Langoliers originally, but there was some problem with that team's flight. They never quite made it and, for some reason, food had no taste.
(Include this link for the word Langoliers: )
But look, long story short, Virginia beat a school that may or may not exist called Marist. Here is some info on that.
Monica Wright wasn't about to allow an upset.
Virginia's junior guard scored all of her 13 points in the second half- including two key 3-pointers down the stretch-to push the fifth-seeded Cavaliers past No. 12 Marist 68-61 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
Ariana Moorer led the Cavaliers (24-9) with 16 points. Aisha Mohammed had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Lyndra Littles scored 13. Virginia will face California in a second-round game in the Trenton regional on Monday.
Of further note:
The Cavaliers were playing without starter Britnee Millner, who was serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules. Moorer started in her place for Virginia, which was making its 23rd appearance in the tournament.Millner is a game-time decision against California.
I'll be honest. My knowledge of the University of Virginia is not particularily strong. I apologize for being less than perfect! But anytime we need more information on an upcoming team, we can always take a look at the game notes for the game (caution: PDF file). They have information on some main characters on the Virginia team, such as the Head Coach:
Head coach Debbie Ryan has reached the 20-win mark for the 22nd time in her career. The Hall of Fame coach's career record is 699-297, just one win shy of 700.
Some players to look out for are Monica Wright, Aisha Mohammed, and Lyndra Littles:
Virginia continues to be led offensively by national player of the year candidate and first team All-ACC selection Monica Wright, who averages 20.3 points per game, and senior Lyndra Littles, who averages 20.2 points per game and was also named to the All-ACC first team.
Aisha Mohammed, meanwhile, was named an honorable mention All-ACC selection and averages 12.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. She led the Cavaliers with 14 double-doubles on the season, and had 10 points and 14 rebounds in the first round against Marist.
Lest you think those blurbs are the sole information available about Virginia's key players, the Game Notes go further into detail:
Monica Wright and Lyndra Littles were named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team, while Aisha Mohammed earned honorable mention honors, the conference announced March 2.
• It marks the eighth time in school history that two Cavaliers have been named to the first team in the same year. The last pair was in 1996 (Wendy Palmer and Tora Suber).
• Wright leads the conference and ranks 13th in the nation in scoring at 20.3 points per game and is a finalist for the Wooden Award, the Wade Trophy and Naismith Trophy. The 5-11 junior ranks among the ACC's top-20 leaders in rebounding, assists and free throw
• Littles missed nine games during the fall semester, but her 21.4 points per game scoring average would have led the conference had she played in the required 75 percent of her team's games. She returned in time to make her presence felt in conference play, averaging 22.7 points in 14 ACC games. The 6-1 senior also contributes 6.4 rebounds per game.
• Mohammed, a 6-3 center from Lagos, Nigeria, was the only league player to average a double-double and ended with 12.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. She posted 14 double-doubles throughout the season to make her career total 28.
Cal is a formidable foe for these Cavaliers. How have they done against ranked teams?
Virginia owns a 4-6 record against ranked opponents this season.
• The Cavaliers defeated No. 5 Tennessee on Nov. 17 in Knoxville, Tenn., No. 8 Maryland on Jan. 30 at JPJA and No. 11 FSU Feb. 24 on the road.
• UVa's fourth win over a ranked foe was vs. No. 25 Wake Forest on Jan. 11, 2009 in JPJA.
This is team that was literally in the middle of the pack in the ACC at 8-6. But the ACC, led by a staunch Maryland team, is a good conference and Virginia was 22-8 overall. And Virginia has some solid wins as noted above against teams like Maryland and Tennessee (who just uncharacteristically bowed out of the Tournament in the FIRST ROUND?!?!?).
This is a dangerous team with two powerful players in Wright and Littles. Both average 20 points a game! Our highest is Ashley Walker at 19 points a game. They have 3 players who average more points per game than our #2 player (Alexis Grey-Lawson), who has 12 per game. So, while many fans are anticipating that Cal might not make it past UConn in this bracket, hopefully the team itself isn't looking past the Lady Cavaliers. I have no doubt in my mind that Coach Boyle will keep them focused and if Cal plays at the level we know it can, we'll get that chance to lose to UConn! Go Bears!