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Short handed Bears make easy work of BYU

Cal records a 70-45 win before a tough cross-country road trip

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Just minutes before tip, Cal fans learned that Kristine Anigwe wouldn’t be playing against BYU as a ‘coach’s decision.’ This might cause trepidation in some, since BYU was just off an upset win over a solid Utah team.

Nah, nothing to worry about.

Cal immediately raced to an early lead and finished the first quarter up 22-5. The game was never close and ended with a comfortable 70-45 win and plenty of minutes for Cal’s reserves.

BYU isn’t exactly a juggernaut, but they’ve generally had a solid offense. Cal’s defense smothered the Cougars, holding them to .61 points/possession. The Cougars shot just 30% from the field, couldn’t get any traction on the offensive glass, and turned the ball over 16 times. BYU’s leading scorer (senior guard Cassie Devashrayee) was held to half her typical point total and had 3 times as many turnovers as assists. Heck, BYU couldn’t even sink their free throws, although I guess Cal can’t really take credit for that.

Cal’s defense was strong enough that they didn’t need a ton of offensive production, but they got plenty from typically balanced scoring. Even without Anigwe and the injured Mi’Cole Cayton, Cal still managed to have six players score 7 points or more, led by Mikayla Cowling’s 21. There was plenty of talk pre-season about the value of depth, and today we saw it in action. Last year’s Bears may very well have lost a game like this if they were missing two critical members of the rotation.

Assorted thoughts:

  • That was a game where Cal’s speed, strength, and size decisively won a game. BYU quite frankly looked overwhelmed, and made a variety of mental and physical mistakes as a consequence.
  • Kianna Smith’s dad came on the Pac-12 network broadcast during the 2nd quarter for a nice chat about his daughter, as she was busy calmly scoring 12 points and dishing 5 assists. It was fun listening to how he, a DI coach himself, appreciated the respect and professionalism with which Cal’s coaches approached their recruitment of his daughter.
  • Asha Thomas went through an odd shooting slump that lasted through the entire UOP game and more than half of today’s game before she got a few shots to drop. If she had been hitting 3s at her usual rate this game would’ve been truly ugly.
  • Having said that, Mikayla and Kianna picked her up with solid shooting from deep. This team isn’t dependent on Asha getting hot from deep the way they were last year.
  • It’s always interesting to watch how a team plays when such an influential player is out. Cal was much more guard oriented, and much more balanced both in terms of minutes and shots.

Cal’s win doesn’t technically signify the end of the non-conference schedule, as a road trip to Kentucky looms. But it does signify an inflection point of sorts - from this point forward, every single game Cal will play will be against a power conference team, and with the possible exception of a pretty woeful looking Arizona, every game will be against a team that will punish a sub-par effort.

To the extent that one can determine these things, I think the Bears are ready. Granted, I thought much the same when Cal went 12-0 prior to Pac-12 play last year. But it feels foolish to suggest that this year’s team wouldn’t be better than last year’s team based solely on having almost an identical roster except with the addition of a year of experience and a few talented freshmen. Regardless, it’s time to start finding out.

Now I just need to figure out how to get out of working on Thursday morning.