Cal women’s basketball hopes to continue winning streak against Utah, Colorado

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The Cal women’s basketball team (17-7, 5-7) is an intriguing team to watch. Intriguing, because its performance in a match can range anywhere from abysmal to phenomenal. Take into account its matchups against then-No. 7 Washington and then-No. 13 UCLA. The Bears put on an extremely underwhelming show against the Huskies in the 67-90 loss in Seattle, but amazingly they turned the tables on their much-fancied Southern California rivals, beating them 80-77.

It is this mercurial nature which makes it hard to predict the team’s trajectory. Cal had started the season on a strong note, but it has been below-average in conference play. The last two wins against UCLA and USC do suggest a resurgence of sorts, but that can only be confirmed if the Bears are able to beat Utah and Colorado this weekend.

The one player who embodies the unpredictability, or lack of consistency, if you would, is guard Asha Thomas. Her talent is beyond doubt, but her ability to produce offensively on a day-to-day basis is something that is still-to-be unearthed. Consider her performance against Washington State, where she shot a measly 20 percent from the field, and scored a grand total of four points along with turning the ball over seven times. This is in direct contrast to her performance against the Bruins, where she was one of Cal’s key players, as she contributed by scoring three times from beyond the arc. Thomas’ streakiness, more often than not, becomes a key factor in deciding games.

The last two matchups, however, have also seen a new team dynamic emerge with guard Mi’Cole Cayton starting. Cayton has provided the Bears with an influx of energy and hustle, and this was on full display against the Los Angeles schools. Her ability to finish on open looks was very useful against the Bruins, where she dropped 18 points, shooting seven of 11 from the field.

The Utes, however, will be confident of their chances against the Bears. Utah posted a convincing 63-57 win over Cal earlier this season. Their subsequent six games, however, were littered with losses and only one win. Nevertheless, the Utes will be smacking their lips by looking at Cal’s high turnover numbers, something that they took full advantage of last time out by scoring 19 points off of them. Cal is currently averaging 17 TO’s per game, and this can prove to be an opening that both Utah and Colorado will look to exploit. If the Cal players focus on a better passing completion rate, the turnover numbers should drop.

The major scoring threat that Cal will have to deal with over the weekend is Colorado’s Kennedy Leonard, who is averaging 18.6 points per game. Leonard is good at finishing inside and is also adept at drawing fouls and converting them. The Cal defense will have to be tight, yet careful so as to not commit too many shooting fouls in order to disrupt the Buffs’ offensive strategy.

The Bears are facing opponents that they can defeat, but only if they are consistent. Cal boasts a better conference record than both teams, and a home sweep will serve to increase their postseason chances. The only thing standing between the Bears and two wins is their own inconsistency.

Devang Prasad covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DevangPrasad.

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