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Women's basketball vs. USC Trojans: gamethread and preview

Part one of today's two-part Cal vs. USC basketball extravaganza.

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

When: Noon Pacific/3:00 p.m. Eastern
TV: Pac-12 Networks

Ahh, USC. Perhaps my least favorite team in the Pac-12, because of the awful things they do to Cal. USC's torture of Cal WBB goes back well before any of the current players were around, back before the Gottlieb era. For whatever reason (likely coincidence), the Trojans (women of Troy? I guess?) exist to cause us pain and misery. Cal's sweep last year was very, very sweet for that reason.

Since beating Cal at Haas, USC has been downright bad. They have lost five of seven, with wins only at home over UCLA and on the road over Oregon. Granted, two losses to Stanford doesn't mean much, but for a team that had a shot to compete for 2nd place in the conference, you can't get swept at home to the Washington schools.

But don't be fooled for a minute. USC lost those games intentionally, in order to lull Cal into a false sense of security. They're sneaky like that. Ariya Crook knows that she can only score a certain amount of points, and she's saving them all up for us. I'm sure of it.

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Sagarin Predictor: Cal by .5

Even the cold hard logic of the computers know that this game is going to be stressful for 40 minutes.

Keys to the Game

For God's sake, please stop Ariya Crook: At some point, given enough chances, Ariya Crook would eventually have a bad shooting game against Cal no matter what kind of defense the Bears played. I think. But I'd appreciate it if Cal can simply shut her down. Honestly, I'm not sure who guards her. Asking Brittany Boyd to do it on a tender ankle is dangerous. Crook is too fast for Mikayla Lyles. The best choice is probably Afure Jemerigbe, but it's going to be a team effort because clearly one player isn't enough for Cal to stop her.

I would not recommend going underneath any screens designed to get her open for a 3.

A big game from Gen - Believe it or not, the first game against USC was Gennifer Brandon's first double double of the year, and in only 23 minutes. USC is a team that she has always played her best against, in part because they really don't have anybody inside that can remotely compete with her athleticism. That's doubly true when she plays at the same time as Reshanda Gray, something that didn't happen often enough against the Trojans at Haas. I suspect that she will play major minutes today, and that she will have a big game with Reshanda along side her to attract defenders away.

Another balanced effort - One major aspect of Cal's surge to 2nd place in the conference has been increased contributions on offense from players not named Boyd or Gray. Jemerigbe, Lyles and Brandon have all been chipping in, and if Courtney Range, Justine Hartman or Mercedes Jefflo can add on, even better. The more everybody else can take advantage of the attention Boyd and Gray draw, the more efficient Cal's offense will be.