This just might be the most important game of the season. If the Bears do not win tonight against the Trojans, they will enter Saturday’s game against #8 UCLA, a team they match up very poorly with, on a three game losing streak. They then immediately embark on a four game road trip through Oregon and Arizona. With Cal’s road struggles, it feels like this is a season on the brink.
The good news? For as poorly as Cal matches up against the Bruins I think they match up well with USC. The Trojans are one of the few teams with arguably less depth than the Bears. DeNesha Stallworth had two of her best games as a freshman against the Trojans last year, and the Bears really dominated on the boards, even more so than they usually do. USC just really isn’t a very good rebounding team, which means they rely on good shooting to win games. That puts the onus on Cal’s defense to really clamp down.
The defense will be focusing on Ashley Corral, Briana Gilbreath and Jackie Gemelos. All three are very willing to shoot from anywhere on the court, as 40% of their combined attempts are three pointers. Corral has surprisingly struggled a bit from the field, but Gemelos in particular has been shooting the ball well. All three are capable of going off, though typically nobody on USC scores a ton of points because the team is pretty balanced on offense.
Christina Marinacci and Cassie Harberts round out the scoring threats, though their forte is rebounding while Corral, Gilbreath and Gemelos take on most of the offensive burden. Because USC will frequently have 5 players on the court capable of scoring it’s going to have to be a full team effort on defense to keep them off the scoreboard. Anything less and Cal probably leaves with their third straight loss.