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Cal WBB vs. Louisville: Preview & Gamethread

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Can Cal defend their home court and earn a win over the #10 team in the country?

We meet again, Louisville
We meet again, Louisville
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

When: 2:00 pm
TV: Pac-12 Network
Live StatsCalBears.com

When this game was announced about a year ago, Cal fans got excited at the thought of a little revenge for the national semi-final game from two years ago, when Atonita Slaughter's barrage of 3 pointers helped Louisville overcome a 10 point halftime deficit.

After two straight losses, the game has lost a bit of luster off of what most assumed would be a top 10 match-up. Louisville has spent most of the year destroying overmatched opponents, but a nine point loss to Kentucky suggests that they have some vulnerabilities. Whether or not Cal is currently equipped to exploit them remains to be seen.

Personnel

Starters

G Bria Smith, 5'10'' Sr.
G Jude Schimmel, 5'6'' Sr.
F Mariya Moore, 6'0'' Fr.
F Sara Hammond, 6'2'' Sr.
F Myisha Hines-Allen, 6'2'' Fr.

Bench

F Cortnee Walton, 6'3'' Jr.
F Emmonnie Henderson, 6'1'' So.
F Shawnta' Dyer, 6'1'' Sr.
G Megan Deines, 6'1'' Jr.
G Arica Carter, 5'8'' Fr.

Before Thursday's game against Grand Canyon, Louisville started the same five players in every game. But junior Cortnee Walton returned from a broken toe and started in place of Hines-Allen. Both will likely play significant minutes, so it probably doesn't matter a ton who starts.

Louisville has been very balanced on offense so far, although that has something to do with a schedule that hasn't been particularly strong. As a result the Cardinals have enjoyed a number of blowouts that allowed them to give bench players significant minutes. Still, they will likely play 9-10 deep against Cal even if the starters will likely play 25-30 minutes rather than 22 or 23 minutes.

Mariya Moore is the star player, and a Bay Area native who never really considered Cal during her recruitment. Hey, better to pick Louisville than UCLA, right? She's already Louisville's leading scorer and best shooter, and even leads the team in assists and assist/turnover ratio as a small forward. Yikes.

Hammond, Hines-Allen, and Smith aren't far behind in the scoring column, and Cal's defense won't be able to focus on any particular player. Louisville's biggest offensive strength might be depth in passing ability - they average 18 assists/game but no one player averages more than 4/game. Everybody knows how to move the rock, which probably reflects the talent of the players and the coaching ability of Jeff Walz equally.

Stat Preview

Louisville offense vs. Cal defense (national ranks in parenthesis, when available)

L'ville Offense Cal Defense
eFG% 50.5% (31) 35.7% (49)
Rebound% 44% 32%
Turnover% 18.5% (44) 20.0% (234)
Free Throw Rate 16.9 (91) 16.8 (106)
Points/Possession 1.08 (15) .84 (108)

Cal offense vs. Louisville defense

Cal Offense L'ville Defense
eFG% 50.7% (29) 36.4% (59)
Rebound% 33% 28%
Turnover% 20.8% (105) 29.0% (17)
Free Throw Rate 13.3 (266) 17.9 (136)
Points/Possession 0.97 (55) .73 (11)

Keys to the Game

Avoid turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: Cal hasn't faced a ton of teams that really try to create giveaways on defense, but when they have things have occasionally gotten ugly (see: LBSU). Louisville is an elite turnover forcing team, and Cal is relying on some young players to handle the ball. The burden will fall mostly on Brittany Boyd to keep control of the game and run the offense despite Louisville pressure, particularly if/when Louisville uses a full court press.

Find a way to lock down the defensive glass: More than most teams, Louisville is completely willing to crash the offensive glass as a team-wide strategy, and without Courtney Range (I assume) Cal will certainly be vulnerable on the defensive glass. I honestly don't know how Cal will do this, but it has to happen.

For the love of all that is good and holy, Reshanda Gray and Brittany Boyd cannot get in foul trouble: Duh.

Disrupt passing lanes: Cal's new team-wide length hasn't led to a meaningful increase in forced turnovers, but it has led to low opponent shooting percentages and fewer opponent assists. Louisville is a team that thrives on strong ball movement to get the ball inside - other than Mariya Moore they are almost as 3 point averse as Cal is. If the Bears can use their size and length to get in passing lanes, clog up Louisville's offense, and generally prevent Louisville from getting the ball where they want, then Cal might be able to turn the game into a low scoring slog that could go either way.

Get the ball to the bucket, and hit a few threes: Louisville's defense is, relative to everything else, a little vulnerable inside. That's not necessarily unusual for teams that try to trap and force turnovers. If Cal is going to win they are going to have to get the ball inside either on drives from Boyd or on post-ups to Gray. And they will probably need an outlier shooting night from outside when they are forced to settle for a jumper. The reality is that Cal is the underdog even at home, so an outlier shooting night might have to go in Cal's favor both ways to get the win.