Coming into the last month of the regular season, the Cal women’s basketball team (16-5, 8-2 Pac-12) is on a five game winning streak heading into the most difficult part of their season. The outcome of their remaining February games will determine the Bears’ postseason fate, including their ranking in the Pac-12 tournament. The shortest month of the year will become quite long for Cal if it does not keep up the play it has displayed in the last few weeks. First stop: Arizona and No. 10 Arizona State.
This is the second time this season that Cal is facing off against these Arizona teams. Both visited Berkeley in the middle of January, a weekend during which the Bears went 1-1 at Haas Pavilion.
This Friday, Cal will face off against the Wildcats (8-13, 1-9 Pac-12) who have had a lot of difficulty against the Pac-12 this season. Last month, the Bears defeated Arizona 68-56. It was senior forward Reshanda Gray’s performance in the second half that sealed the deal, scoring 18 of her 28 points in the game in the second half.
In the game, Cal also shot 77.8% from the free throw line. The Wildcats sent the Bears to the line often in the last five minutes, allowing them to score 17 points during that time. A win against Arizona this weekend would give the Bears their 17th consecutive victory over the Wildcats.
Cal will face an even bigger challenge this weekend, however. In the 67-52 loss to the then-No. 14 Arizona State (20-2, 9-1 Pac-12) last month, the Bears were unable to keep up with the Sun Devils’ offense, allowing them to go on a 16-5 run to end the game and Cal’s chances of a victory. Coming into the game, senior guard Brittany Boyd had five consecutive double-doubles, but Arizona State’s defense prevented her from scoring anywhere near her average of 15.2 points coming into the game. Boyd only scored seven points, with two rebounds and six assists against the Sun Devils.
“I never felt like we were in control of the game, which is what we want to be,” said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We didn’t have the mental or physical toughness to get the stops we needed to make. This conference is too good. We can’t just rely on doing the little things in the scouting report or stay locked in all the time.”
Gray had another big game against Arizona State, despite the difficulties the Bears had scoring. She was 7-of-7 from the field and had 17 total points. A similar performance from Gray on Sunday will be critical if Cal wants to have success against the top-10 team. Turnovers will also play a big role, as the Bears will need to take the ball out of the Sun Devils’ hands in order to have any success.
If Cal can come out of the weekend with two wins, this team can start thinking about a glimmer of hope of a Pac-12 championship run. Until then, Cal will remain on the outside looking in at a very competitive conference.
Alaina Getzenberg covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]