A 19:07 drought by Colorado set Cal up for a big-time bounce back after dropping their first two Pac-12 games, and the Golden Bears limited the Buffaloes to just 35 points in the conference home opener at Haas Pavilion Friday night. The Bears won 64-35 for their first Pac-12 victory of the season, improving to 10-4 overall and 1-2 in conference action with a five-game home win streak.
Cal allowed just one more point than the school record for fewest points allowed, which was 34, in a 62-34 victory over Washington on Jan. 11, 2009.
All eight of Cal's healthy players saw action, with every single player contributing points in the effort. Freshman Kristine Anigwe has reached a double-double in every Pac-12 game of the season so far, scoring 20 points (7-12) and matching a career-high 13 rebounds for her third consecutive double-double and eighth overall. Anigwe also tallied a career-best four assists. Junior Courtney Range had 10 points (4-11), eight rebounds and three steals, and freshman Asha Thomas' balanced effort included eight points (4-5), four assists and six rebounds.
Colorado's 19:07 scoring drought, which lasted from 3:27 in the first quarter to 4:40 in the third quarter and included a scoreless second quarter for the Buffs, saw the Bears go on a 19-0 run.
The game deadlocked, 14-14, at 2:53 of the first quarter and continued that way for nearly six minutes. Anigwe finally broke the game's scoring drought at 7:04 with a free throw.
While the drought continued for Colorado, Cal's offense began to stir, and a layup by MaAne' Mosley at 3:35 set Cal up for an 8-0 run by the Golden Bear freshmen. The scoring by committee saw Anigwe pour in five while Mosley and Thomas chipped in two apiece.
For the first time this season, the Bears held an opponent scoreless as Cal kept Colorado at bay the entire second quarter, marking a 13:27first-half drought for the Buffaloes. Cal shot 18.8 percent (3-16) in the quarter, and 32.1 percent (9-28) for the half while holding the Buffs to 31.6 percent (6-19) shooting.
Makenzie Ellis finally snapped Colorado's drought with a jumper at 4:40 in the third quarter to end Cal's 19-0 run.
Cal increased its lead to as much as 32 points, going 7-7 from the floor from 7:59 to 3:37 of the fourth quarter. Cal shot a much-improved 53.1 percent (17-32) in the second half and 43.3 percent (26-60) in the game. Colorado was limited to only 12 shots from the floor for a 25.5 percent (12-47) clip in the game.
Kennedy Leonard led Colorado as the only player in double figures, tallying 12 points.
The road was unkind to the Bears. After a frustrating, but in retrospect decent, performance in defeat to the red-hot Sun Devils, Cal crashed to a painful defeat to the Arizona Wildcats. I don't think Cal has lost a game to the Wildcats since I started following the team closely. Suffice to say it's been a while.
The good news is that the Bears are at home. Even better - if Arizona isn't the worst team (At this point they probably aren't) in the conference then it's Colorado. The Buffs are 5-8, with a bunch of losses to teams that range from OK to great, and a bunch of wins over teams that range from bad to worse. When your best win is over Northern Colorado and you don't have a neutral or road win, it's been a rough year.
PG Kennedy Leonard, 5'8'' Freshman
G Alexis Robinson, 5'10'' Freshman
G/F Haley Smith, 6'1'' Junior
G/F Lauren Huggins, 6'2'' Junior
F Jamee Swan, 6'2'' Senior
G Brecca Thomas, 5'5'' Sophomore
F Zoe Beard-Fails, 6'1'' Junior
F Makenzie Ellis, 6'2'' Freshman
C Zoe Correal, 6'4'' Sophomore
Colorado is basically 2015-16 Cal, if the Bears hadn't recruited well over the last three years. Tons of underclassmen, not a ton of production. Swan and Smith are the only returning starters from last year, so it's not totally surprising that they are two of the better scorers on the team. Leonard has been a pleasant surprise as a freshman, going for 13 points and 5 assists/game with a positive assist to turnover ratio.
Our computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 11.8
Home sweet home!
Keys to the Game
1. Make things tough on a freshman point guard
Colorado has actually had a reasonably efficient offense, and Kennedy Leonard is a big reason why. But she hasn't seen many teams that can throw multiple 6'2'' defenders at her in a mix of trapping zones and pressure man-to-man defenses. Disrupt her, disrupt the Buffalo offense
2. Get back in a groove on offense
Colorado has the worst defense in the conference. It's time for Cal to shake off the cobwebs of a painful offensive weekend in the desert and get back into what they had otherwise been doing all season long - making shots.
3. Better rebounding
I mercifully missed the Arizona game, but every single observer criticized the Bears for poor rebounding, particularly in terms of securing the defensive glass. I would bet that boxing out was a focal point of practice this week, but will it result in better production against a team with a couple of bruisers down low? Let's find out.