With their dominating 61-45 win over Illinois St., the Cal women advanced to the WNIT championship game and earned yet another 'senior night.' Excepting approximately 783.4 traveling violations, the Bears played well in most phases of the game to defeat the Redbirds. But two stats in particular illustrate Cal's performance:
-Cal rebounds: 47 total, 16 offensive. Illinois St. rebounds: 31 total, 9 offensive
-Illinois St. eFG% on the season : 50.0. Illinois St. eFG% vs. Cal: 32.7
I suppose Illinois St.'s 45 total points are impressive enough, but Cal's defensive effort cannot be understated. The Bears effectively pressed ISU at times, contested most shots, and generally limited ISU to one shot a possession. The stats listed above were even more lopsided before Cal let up the intensity during the last three minutes of game when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
DeNesha Stallworth started hot with 11 quick points for the Bears as both offenses struggled early. With 13:41 left in the first half ISU led 9-7. The Redbirds would only make one more field goal for the rest of the half as the Bears opened up a lead that they would never give up. For a change of pace, good outside shooting fueled Cal's run as 3 pointers from Alexis Gray-Lawson and Natasha Vital pushed Cal's halftime lead to 14.
ISU cut that lead to 7 and 8 at different points in the 2nd half, but the Redbirds were never able to shoot or rebound well enough to mount a serious comeback. Gray-Lawson led the Bears with 23 points, Talia Caldwell picked up a quiet double-double with 10 points and 12 boards, and four Bears reached double digits in a solid team effort.
Next up: The Bears will play the Miami Hurricanes at home on Saturday. Look for more info about the game tomorrow! Go Bears!
Note: Jerome Randle will be participating in a 3 point shootout on ESPN from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, PST. Use this thread to comment if you're watching Jerome take a bunch of shots that bore him with their absurdly close proximity to the basket.
Illinois St. is almost certainly the best team Cal has faced thus far in the NIT and they have the best resume of any team in the field. On the other hand, the Bears have been playing their best basketball of the season over the last two weeks. Both teams know that if they win, they will host the NIT championship on Saturday. We're going to see two highly motivated, talented teams and somebody is going home very disappointed.
The Redbirds are a veteran team that's used to winning games (21 wins in their last 23 games). They are led by a trio of seniors - Ashleen Bracey, Maggie Krick and Nicolle Lewis average 14.9, 14.0 and 12.2 ppg respectively and are also ISU's top three rebounders. For the most part Illinois St. does everything well but few things spectacularly, with on important exception - they shoot the ball very well. Their team eFG% of exactly 50% dwarfs Cal's 43.3. But most impressively, ISU leads the nation in free throw percentage at 81%. Needless to say, the Bears cannot commit unnecessary fouls and they would be well advised to keep ISU out of the bonus.
Hit the jump for some more stats, some more previews, some baseless conjecture and your WNIT semi-final game thread!
|eFG%||opp eFG%||ORB%||opp ORB%||TOV%||opp TOV%||FTA/FGA||opp FTA/FGA|
So here is the big question: Can Cal's superior rebounding and turnover percentages make up for Illinois St's enormous advantage in shooting? The most important matchup of the game will be DeNesha Stallworth, Talia Caldwell and Gennifer Brandon vs. 6'5'' Nicole Lewis and 6'0'' Ashleen Bracey. Lewis is one of the taller players Cal has faced on the year and she's a very talented post who particularly excels at drawing fouls and getting to the line. Bracey gets plenty of boards but also presents a challenge because she's and excellent three point shooter and will stretch the defense. If Cal's freshmen bigs can play disciplined defense, avoid foul trouble and outrebound Bracey and Lewis, the Bears will be in great shape.
Some other thoughts and concerns:
-Katie Broadway is the 13th best three point shooter in the nation, and three point shots make up 66% of her attempts. She's probably going to park herself behind the arc and somebody will have to stop her from getting open shots off.
-Maggie Krick is probably going to handle the ball a ton. That can be good and bad, as she leads ISU in assists but is also turnover prone and doesn't shoot as well as the other senior starters. If Lexi is guarding her (I anticipate that she will) that could be a major opportunity for Cal to disrupt ISU's offense and create turnovers. I'm guessing the more pressure the Bears can put on Krick, the better.
-ISU doesn't force turnovers well, but they've held teams to a very low shooting percentage. Some of this could be a function of playing a weaker schedule than Cal, but I'm guessing they do a good job of focusing on contesting every shot rather than constant ball pressure. Cal will have to pass the ball well if only to just find open looks.