Cal women’s basketball will test deep bench against UC Riverside, CSU Bakersfield

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In their last game, four of the seven players who scored for the Cal women’s basketball team hit double digits. Asha Thomas and Kristine Anigwe were, of course, on the list, but the Bears have also seen a new surge from players such as Penina Davidson and Mikayla Cowling — proving that Cal has more weapons in its arsenal than in previous years. And this arsenal will only grow more and more lethal as the season continues.

This Friday, the Bears (2-0) will be taking on UC Riverside (1-1) at Haas Pavilion at 11:30 a.m. Cal is so far unbeaten on its home court and will be looking to continue its winning streak this upcoming weekend. The Highlanders, on the other hand, earned their first loss on the road against USC.

In its loss against the Trojans, Riverside was outscored most heavily in the second and third quarters of the game, periods during which the Bears tend to find their rhythm offensively. The Highlanders were led in scoring by Rejane Verin, Skyler Lewis and Simone DeCoud, who all scored double digits and combined for 42 of their team’s 49 points.

Verin, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, was the only player to also pull down double-digit rebounds, grabbing more than a quarter of her team’s 38 total rebounds. Verin was also one of four players to put in at least 30 minutes, and one of the six who received solid playing time — indicating that Riverside lacks the bench depth that Cal has been reliant on.

The Bears, on the other hand, played 10 different players in their last game, seven of who played at least 18 minutes. This deep roster has allowed Cal to rest valuable players like Anigwe while still maintaining a hugely powerful lineup on the court. This will most likely serve them well against the Highlanders.

In their first two games, Asha Thomas has served the Bears very well from the three-point line, converting four in the game against Santa Clara and five against St. Mary’s. If her shooting continues on this trajectory — and there’s no reason to believe it won’t — she could once again put up vital double digits for the Bears that could give them just enough of an edge over Riverside.

In their second game of the weekend, the Bears will face CSU Bakersfield (1-1) on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. In their win against Hawaii, the Runners were led by forward Aja Williams, who scored 27 of her team’s 58 points, 15 of which came from three-pointers. She also led her team in rebounds with eight, all of which came on the defensive end of the court.

The Runners’ second weapon comes in the form of Erika Williams, who scored 20 points for the team in its loss to Southern Utah, but was unable to put up as high numbers in their game against Hawaii.

Other than the two Williams, Bakersfield has a multitude of filler players who are able to contribute points and rebounds. But Aja Williams is the only threat that the Bears will truly have to contend with. At 5 feet and 8 inches, Aja Williams is a quick guard who can drive to the basket and score from the outside, making her tough to guard. Cal, however, has the height advantage in this battle as well as the defensive weapons to keep Aja Williams at bay as long as they guard her tightly.

The Runners also lack the skill down low to compete with the Bears’ star player, Anigwe, who put up a double-double in her last game despite coming out to a slow start offensively in the first quarter. Anigwe, along with Courtney Range and Cal’s other down low players, should be able to dominate down low against a team whose tallest player still stands an inch below her and easily lead her team to another two wins at home.

Sophie Goethals covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]