Cal begins Cal Classic tournament against Cal State Bakersfield

The Cal women’s basketball team’s defense this season has been excellent, averaging 59 points in the six contests they played this season.

But in Saturday’s 2 p.m contest against Cal State Bakersfield in the first round of the Cal Classic tournament, the Bears’ defense will face a new challenge. The Roadrunners’ offense has been blazing past opposing defenses this season, scoring 83 points per game.

“They are just going to shoot and shoot a lot,” guard Eliza Pierre said. “We would have to play great perimeter defense and stop them from dribbling around the perimeter.”

Despite stockpiling such a high average every game, Cal State Bakersfield (2-5) has struggled this season, coming into Haas Pavilion with a four-game losing streak. Wherever the Roadrunners play, it is almost a guarantee that there will be an offensive shootout on the court from both teams.

To accommodate for its lack of size, Cal State Bakersfield plays a speedy, up-tempo offense fitting to its mascot name. Relying on sharpshooting perimeters shooters like guard Amber Williams, the Roadrunners play a four-guard rotation with a 6-foot-1 forward as their lone post player to scrap most of the rebounds.

Cal (4-2), offensively, is the near polar opposite. The Bears play a very physical game, rotating their four post players to wear the opponents down by their strength and size. And with its centers and forwards facing virtually little defensive challenges size-wise from Cal State Bakersfield, Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb hopes to capitalize on their physical advantage.

“They don’t have the personnel to match up against our big players,” Gottlieb said. “We’ll need to dictate the game through the post.”

The Bears showed last week in their three-game series in Honolulu, Hawaii, that they have the most success when they are able to dominate the post. With the emergence of scoring center Justine Hartman and rebound machine Gennifer Brandon this season, Cal controlled the paint last weekend. As a result, the Bears had a successful Thanksgiving trip, defeating the hosts Hawaii, 69-54, and more impressively, then-No. 22 Virginia, 59-50.

But in reflection, they are more irked about their one-point loss to No. 21 Texas than being satisfied with their two victories in Honolulu. After leading the game for the first 39 minutes — up by 14 points at one point – Cal led the game slip away. With 50-odd seconds remaining, the Longhorns took the lead.

For the Bears, who lost their opening tilt against No. 11 Rutgers in similar fashion, Cal has gone back to focusing on fundamentals this week in practice. With Cal facing off against such a quick team who can score in an instant, it has little to no margin for error.

“We don’t want to be that team that gives up games due to little mental mistakes,” Pierre said. “We have been working on passing and free throws, so that we won’t make mistakes during the game.”