Cal women’s basketball set to host Santa Clara

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An opening game win: check.

A road win: check.

A dominating performance in the match: not so much.

Cal women’s basketball’s season has just started, and the team has managed to win its two opening games so far. While the Bears mauled Westmont in the exhibition, 87-48, they were able to fend off Saint Mary’s by the skin of their teeth. On Monday, Cal will be facing another tough challenge as it hosts Santa Clara at Haas Pavilion.

The story of the nail-biting encounter with the Gaels was Cal’s offensive inefficiency in the first quarter, defined by the Bears scoring nine points in response to Saint Mary’s 16. Sophomore guard Asha Thomas came to Cal’s rescue in the match as she led the scoring with 19 points, shooting 6-10, including 5-8 from three-point territory.

Cal’s offensive unit will have to improve in the coming match against the Broncos if it hopes to come out with a win. Santa Clara is on a three-game winning streak, with two wins being in exhibition games against Notre Dame de Namur and Chico State. While the Broncos, like Cal, were able to see off their exhibition opponents with ease, they too had to grind out a win against Idaho State in their season opener.

Santa Clara’s biggest offensive threat will be guard Emily Wolph, who scored 20 in the encounter against Idaho State. Wolph had a slow start to the game, having scored only four in the first three quarters. She erupted in the the fourth as she recorded 16, half of what the Broncos scored in that quarter. Wolph shot a healthy 55 percent from the field, and her skill to draw fouls led her to the the line 10 times. Wolph’s free throw shooting was magnificent against Idaho State as she recorded a 90 percent free throw rate. Cal’s interior defense will have to be wary about contending with her, as she can hurt from the line.

Another cause for concern for Cal will be its rebounding, as the Bears were outrebounded on the offensive end by both Saint Mary’s and Westmont. Defensively, while the Bears were able to get the better of Westmont by quite a distance (27-9), the Gaels provided a tougher fight in the battle for boards, as Cal only had one more defensive rebound than its opponents. Courtney Range and Mikayla Cowling have been the more consistent rebounders for the Bears, with Range having led them in rebounds against Saint Mary’s with nine.

Cal’s match against the Gaels also highlighted the Bears’ difficulties in moving the ball early in the game. Saint Mary’s strategy of crowding the box and using quick double teams in the key against the likes of Kristine Anigwe slowed down the Bears’ offensive gameplan. Cal, however, was able to improve as the match progressed and that became one of the key factors in helping the team win.

Call it opening season adjustments or the integration of new players, but a slow start is probably on the cards for Cal against Santa Clara as well. The team has a slew of new players, and making them come to terms with the rigors of college basketball will take some time. The Bears have historically been better than their opponents, and they will be looking to add another win against them Monday.

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