Brittany Boyd was named the Tournament MVP after leading No. 14 California to the Cal Classic championship with a 94-69 win over Creighton Saturday night at Haas Pavilion.
Boyd, who posted her second career triple-double Friday night against San Jose State, nearly matched the feat against the Bluejays with 14 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and five steals in just 22 minutes of action.
The win gives California (6-0) its fourth consecutive Cal Classic championship. Reshanda Gray led California with 21 points on a 7-of-8 shooting night while pulling down eight rebounds. Courtney Range (17) and Justine Hartman (13) both hit double figures scoring as well to pace the Golden Bears.
After spending the day after Thanksgiving gluttonously stuffing the stat sheet, the Bears are back in action against a more formidable foe. The Creighton Blue Jays have recently left the Missouri Valley for the Big East, and already sport a win over a Pac-12 foe, reason enough for the Bears to take them seriously.
Granted, that team was struggling Utah. But Creighton went a solid 12-6 in the Big East last year, won a game in the WNIT, and should be a solid team again this year. They are short four seniors (and two starters) from last year's nine player rotation.
The Blue Jays enter with a record of 3-2, with a completely understandable loss to UConn and an explicable but perhaps still disappointing road loss to Wichita State. Their wins are all over decent-or-better teams in Utah, South Dakota St, and Cincinnati. In terms of comparitive quality, Creighton is likely similar to Missouri or a team like USC - dangerous, but a team that Cal should beat. Particularly at home.
Marissa Janning, 5'8'' Jr.
Sammy Jensen, 5'5'' Sr.
MC McGrory, 5'8'' So.
Alexis Akin-Otinko, 5'11'' Sr.
Brianna Rollerson, 6'0'' So.
G Sydney Lamberty, 5'10'' Fr.
F Taylor Johnson, 5'11'' Jr.
G Lauren Works, 5'7'' So.
F Bailey Norby, 6'2'' Fr.
McGrory and Janning are both capable ball-handlers and passers in an offense that is probably the best Cal has faced so far this year. Janning in particular is the one players who makes the offense go, both with her passing but more with her shooting. She's already an impressive 15-28 from 3 so far this year, which makes everybody but Mikayla Cowling jealous.
Akin-Otinko is their secondary scorer, and she also likes to shoot from behind the arc even though she's nominally a forward. Really, Rollerson and Norby are the only true posts on the roster, and they will be relied on to get rebounds when they are on the court.
You will obviously note a lack of height all around the roster. Not surprisingly, Creighton has struggled to rebound this year. It was a strength last year, but the two main senior losses were imposing interior players, and it's a deficit for now while they work to get 6'2'' freshman Norby integrated into the lineup.
Keys to the game
Guard the 3 point line: Right now, Creighton has one of the most start statistical gaps I've ever seen. They currently shoot 36% on 2 point shots, good for 313th in the nation. They also currently shoot 42% from behind the arc, good for 8th. I know that it's really early in the season, and I know that it won't last, but that's just bizarre and does speak to a general guideline: Cal must guard the 3 point line zealously because Creighton has many players that can make a 3 but very few players who can mix it up inside.
Take advantage of size and athleticism: This is probably a mild rebuilding year for Creighton, and they are clearly undersized and struggling to match up with teams physically on defense. Cal should give them just as much trouble on that front as a team like UConn. Drive past them, muscle through them, out leap them - all of the above should be on the table on offense.
Patience in the halfcourt: Creighton will slow the game down, and they take care of the ball well enough that Cal probably won't be able to count on turnovers to spring them in transition. The Bears will probably have to score in the half-court, but that really shouldn't be a problem against what objectively appears to be a not very good defense. This will be a solid test of Cal's developing offense.