Cal cruises past Cal State Bakersfield to advance to Cal Classic Finals

For the Cal women’s basketball team on Saturday, Cal State Bakersfield’s high-scoring offense was the least of its concerns.

The Roadrunners (2-6) came into Haas Pavilion averaging 83 points per game, but they showed very little of that high-octane offense. They came in with only six healthy players, excluding their star guard Tyonna Outland. The game was out of Cal State Bakersfield’s hands 10 minutes into the game, ultimately losing to the Bears, 86-56.

Despite the expectation of a shootout, both teams started slow in the first five minutes, with Cal (5-2) leading Cal State Bakersfield by five points. But with the introduction of freshman forward Justine Hartman and into the court, the Bears started to widen the gap.

Playing against defenders sometimes half foot shorter than her, Hartman aggressively attacked the basket early in the first half. Leading 14-9 with 12 minutes to go, Hartman made two of her trademark jumpers back-to-back from the free throw line with no defensive challenges. She finished the game with 12 points.

“I was in the middle of the court, and nobody stepped up in front to defend me,” Hartman said.

Added forward Reshanda Gray: “She was definitely a spark for us today,”

It was not only Hartman who feasted on the Roadrunners’ small size in the post. Gray and forward Gennifer Brandon both had big games in the paint — Gray earned her the first double-double of her Cal career with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon added to her reputation as a rebounding machine with team-high 14 boards.

“They take tons of long shots, and that usually means long rebounds,” Gray said. “They didn’t come inside the post because I think they were intimidated by us.”

For nearly all 40 minutes, Cal State Bakersfield basically hugged the 3-point line, shooting in vain to produce points against a more physically talented side. Out of their 30 points in the first half, 24 came from their eight 3-pointers.

With their 3-points-or-no-points strategy, the Roadrunners could not keep up with the Bears, who were slowly but surely producing points. Ten minutes into the second half, the 22-point margin was too large for Cal State Bakersfield to overcome.

Cal will play for the Cal Classic title Sunday at 2:30 p.m at Haas Pavilion against UNLV.

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