When: 6:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Bay Area
Way back before Christmas, the Bears took on UCLA at Haas Pavilion, and what followed was one of the most singularly entertaining Cal basketball game I've ever seen.
It also may have been something of a Pyrrhic victory. Courtney Range, Mikayla Cowling and Asha Thomas played 47, 50, and 50 minutes respectively. The Bears won, but they left the court battered and exhausted.
It's simplistic to say that the have started Pac-12 play 1-5 because of that game. After all, they blew the doors off of Cal State Northridge nine days after that UCLA win. But I think it's fair to say that the strain of the season has piled up, and that Pac-12 teams have been better placed to exploit Cal's roster weaknesses.
This is gonna be a tough one. UCLA will no doubt be clamping at the bit for revenge. They're 4-2 so far, with road losses to USC and Washington and a solid home win over Oregon State.
PG Jordin Canada, 5'6'' So.
G Kori Korver, 5'9'' Jr.
G Nirra Fields, 5'9'' Sr.
F Monique Billings, 6'4'' So.
F Kacy Swain, 6'3'' Sr.
G Kennedy Burke, 6'1'' Fr.
G Kelli Hayes, 6'0'' So.
F Paulina Hersler, 6'3'' So.
F Ashley Hearn, 6'4'' Fr.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: UCLA by 11.4 points
This portion of the preview is getting depressing enough that I'm considering eliminating it, but I don't want to incite a computer overlord revolt.
Keys to the game
1. Find a way to stay even on the glass
UCLA almost won in Berkeley despite a massive shooting disparity thanks to offensive rebounds, which has since been revealed to be one of Cal's bigger weaknesses. This time around it will likely be a pre-game point of emphasis in terms of game planning, so let's see if the Bears can do better than the 42.4% offensive rebound rate they allowed to the Bruins last time.
2. Does UCLA have a plan to stop Anigwe and Range?
UCLA gets great guard play, but their interior options are more limited. Sure, they rebound well by throwing bodies at the basket with reckless abandon, but that doesn't mean they play great interior defense as well. Cal won because Range and Anigwe went a combined 23-37. They will likely need to be just as productive again tonight for Cal to stick close on the road.
3. The perfect game for zone?
This was a key to the game back in Berkeley, because I didn't think UCLA had the shooters to punish Cal for playing a lot of zone. And it worked out pretty well for the most part, until Canada took the game over by running around a bunch of screens and taking advantage of refs willing to blow whistles for any contact, regardless of who that contact was initiated by.
Considering that Cal is playing with an even more shallow roster than last time, expect more of the same, and simply hope that Korver is contained since she's the only player likely to go off from deep.