Last Wednesday the Cal women defeated UC Davis, 74-69 in a thrilling, come from behind overtime victory.The triumph meant a number of things.It answered the question regarding Cal’s interest in playing for a second tier championship.It showed that the Bears are capable of scoring without Alexis Gray-Lawson on the court and gave a glimpse of what next year’s team might look like.And most importantly, it hopefully gives Lexi at least one more chance to play basketball at Haas Pavilion.
The Utah Utes are coming off of a victory over St. Mary’s and a fourth place finish in the Mountain West behind NCAA participants TCU and San Diego St. and NIT auto-bid BYU.Their most notable games from Cal’s perspective was a non-conference victory over Oregon (89-86) and two blowout losses to Stanford and UCLA.In their Oregon victory Utah held off the Ducks by controlling the boards and getting to the line.Utah did neither when they were dominated by the Bruins and Cardinal – they only scored 33 and 41 points in both games.
80% of Utah’s production comes from Kalee Whipple, Taryn Wicijowski, Janita Badon and Halie Sawyer.All four average at least 32 minutes per game.Badon plays point and does the majority of the ball handling.Sawyer leads the team in rebounding and is probably Utah’s best interior defender.Whipple, a guard, and Wicijowski, a forward, provide the scoring at 16.7 and 14.8 respectively.
So what does all of this mean for Cal?Well, Utah shouldn’t present some of the matchup challenges that UC Davis presented in the first round of the NIT with their extreme 3 point based offense and zone defense.Utah plays a more traditional offense and defense, but they are unlikely to have the size to compete with Cal on the glass.When Utah has played poorly against the best teams on their schedule they really struggled to score – in 9 losses to NCAA or NIT participants, Utah has averaged 47 points.Cal has the defensive intensity and rebounding advantage to hold Utah to that kind of performance.Utah doesn’t do any one thing well enough on offense or defense to see them overcoming Cal’s size and athleticism, but I said that before the UC Davis game and that one went into overtime.Hopefully the return of Lexi will improve Cal’s offense and defense enough to allow Cal a comfortable victory.
If Cal wins, they will almost certainly get another home game, against either Oregon or New Mexico on Thursday or Friday.Win that game, and Cal could potentially be in the unusual position of playing Arizona St. for the fourth time in one season.But that’s too far in the future to worry about right now.Tonight Cal needs to focus on Utah to stave off the end of the season for another few days.