When: 9:00 am PST, 12:00 EST
TV: CSNBA/FSN (check local listings)
Radio: KKGN 960
Streams: CalBears All Access ($)
The Bears face by far their toughest non-conference challenge Saturday morning when they travel to College Station for a nationally televised showdown against #7 Texas A&M. Although Cal has faced some solid teams in Rutgers and St. Mary’s, the Aggies are a different order of magnitude.
For one, this will be just the second road game so far for the Bears. For another, the Aggies are significantly deeper and more experienced than the Bears. Texas A&M starts two seniors and three juniors, and their sixth player off the bench is another senior. They also have nine players averaging at least 10 minutes a game, which will be one more than Cal has available if Rama N’diaye is still out of the lineup.
So the odds are long. But there is reason for optimism.
For one, Cal should be able to outrebound the Aggies. Last year DeNesha Stallworth and Talia Caldwell combined for 16 boards as the Bears won the rebounding battle 49-34. A&M isn’t the biggest team and when they played Arizona the Wildcats held their own on the boards. In fact, Arizona’s entire performance in College Station can give the Bears hope. While they are undoubtedly improved from last year, the fact that a sub .500 team from last year’s Pac-10 can stay within single digits is an indication that if Cal plays to the best of their abilities that the Aggies can be had.
The biggest road block is clear: Danielle Adams has been on a tear to start the season, averaging over 20 points per game. She also leads the Aggies in rebounding and it will be up to Stallworth and Caldwell to win the battle inside. Considering Cal’s lack of depth it is absolutely critical that both players stay out of foul trouble against Adams – if the Bears are forced to play Lindsay Sherbert out of position at forward for long stretches it might be a rough game.
The other key? Turnovers. Last year the Bears outrebounded and outshot A&M, but lost because they turned the ball over 21 times to A&M’s 7. The Aggies excel at forcing their opponents to cough up the ball, averaging more than 20 turnovers forced both this year and last year. The pressure will be on Layshia Clarendon and Eliza Pierre, both literally and figuratively, to hold on to the ball and make smart decisions.
If the Bears can both stay out of foul trouble and avoid too many turnovers they have the size and the talent to score points and limit A&M to one-and-done possessions. But doing it on the road with such a lack of depth would be a major accomplishment. The Bears have a week off both before and after the game, which could make for a fresher team and allow Coach Boyle to play her starters heavy minutes.
Go Bears! Beat the Aggies!