Cal women’s basketball hopes to turn its luck around against No. 18 ASU

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If you were to look at the Cal women’s basketball team today and compare it to its state before 2017 kicked in, you would be shocked. The Bears (14-4, 2-4 Pac-12) began the season in emphatic fashion — going unbeaten in their first 13 matches — but have since lost four of their last five games.

On Friday, Cal will look to overturn its loss of form as it faces No. 18 ASU at home. The Sun Devils handed the Bears their first loss of the season Dec. 29 in a thrilling encounter that was decided in double overtime.

Last time out, ASU defeated Cal on the back of an impressive defensive performance, as the Bears were only able to score 28 points in the paint. The Sun Devils also amped up their perimeter defending as Cal slotted in eight treys from 24 attempts — a lowly 33.3 percent. Guard Asha Thomas and forward Courtney Range were the main culprits for Cal’s shortcomings from long range as the pair combined to score four times from 16 attempts.

On the defensive end, the Bears were pummelled and conceded 44 points in the paint. Forward Sophie Brunner led ASU in points with 12 and also racked 12 boards. Cal also committed a staggering 20 turnovers, which resulted in 11 points. An inspired rally in the third and fourth quarters allowed the Bears to take the game into overtime, but ASU’s offensive prowess proved to be too much in double overtime.

Cal’s recent run has been disappointing. The team was able to contend easily with non-conference opponents early on in the season, but its performances against Pac-12 opponents has not been up to scratch.

While Anigwe has been a reliable scorer, having scored 20 or above in four of the last five matches, the lack of a secondary option has held back the team on offense. Anigwe’s skill set allows her to score points regularly, but opponents double teaming on her has greatly reduced her efficiency and has resulted in Cal not being able to win matches. In the clash against ASU, Cal will look to rely on forward Penina Davidson, who put up a career-high 19 points in the previous encounter with ASU. She also recorded three blocks and three steals in the matchup, along with nine rebounds.

The Sun Devils come into the match after a 54-65 loss to Washington at home. ASU’s 16 turnovers proved to be costly as the Huskies scored 17 points off turnovers. If the Bears can harrow the ASU players when they have possession, the team might be able to come out of Haas Pavilion with a win. Another important factor will be stopping Brunner, who leads ASU in scoring with an average of 12.5 points per game.

Overall, it will be a tough encounter for a struggling Cal team, as it goes against an opponent that was able to get the better of the team very recently. A win for the Bears will have a positive effect on the team’s morale and might become a key factor for the remaining season.

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