With the academic semester concluding this week, UC Berkeley’s campus is virtually empty. The No. 24 Cal women’s basketball (7-2) is all too familiar with this time of year and is equally familiar with the scattered crowd that winter break brings. As the Bears get ready to host BYU (4-5) on the first official day of break, they may face a sparsely filled Haas Pavilion, but neither team is a stranger to a small showing.
Packed arena or not, the Bears have work to do, hoping to extend their four-game win streak to five, and they have shown this season that they are a squad worth watching. The team has produced a 7-2 record that features a 4-1 record at home, and it recently notched its first 90-point win in the books . While school has wrapped up for the student population, the women’s basketball season is just beginning to heat up, and BYU is just the second-to-last game before the Bears begin conference play.
The Cougars are on a hot bit themselves. BYU is coming off of one of its biggest wins of the season when it took down one of the Pac-12’s better forces in Utah (7-2), 77-68. Taking down one Pac-12 team was an accomplishment in and of itself, but taking down two in a row would be an early Christmas gift for the Cougars.
But the incoming visitors have had a significantly weaker schedule than Cal, and the Bears will be the toughest task the Cougars have seen thus far this year. With a rating percentage index score of 13, Cal has one of the most competitive schedules in all of women’s college basketball, as opposed to BYU’s RPI of 215.
Cal has the upper hand by large, but that is not to say that the Bears will be able to breeze by on Saturday. They will have to slow BYU’s hot-shot senior guard, Cassie Broadhead Devashrayee, who is averaging a team-high 21.6 points per game. With the Bears’ defense likely having to double up on the 5’9” sharpshooter, other opportunities should arise for Devashrayee’s teammates to step up.
Cal has a special top scorer of their own, in 6’4” junior forward Kristine Anigwe. While Anigwe and Devashrayee have vastly different roles on the court, they are both largely the go-getters for their respective teams. Along with being the Bears’ leading scorer, Anigwe is the leading rebounder with 6.4 per game on the season.
The Bears have to take the season one game at a time, but coming off of a win against BYU will help the team moving forward. Conference play is knocking of the door, and there is only so much time to fine-tune play before it is time to hit the big stage — and regardless of the size of the crowd, Cal will have to show out against BYU.
Christie Aguilar covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].