Elite centers headline Cal women’s basketball against Cal State Northridge

Lorenzo Dela Cruz/Staff

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If anyone is going to give Kristine Anigwe a run for her money, it might be Channon Fluker. This Sunday, the two dominant centers will face off as Cal women’s basketball hosts Cal State Northridge.

The Matadors (3-4) are anchored by Fluker, a senior who has already earned back-to-back Big West Player of the Year awards. Fluker is a force in the paint — she ranks in the top 10 in the nation in total offensive rebounds. She also leads the Matadors with 15.4 points and 12.3 rebounds per contest and has done it all in just 23.9 minutes a game.

Fluker is set to battle in the paint with Anigwe, who has taken a leap from stardom to superstardom this year. Anigwe has posted averages of 24 points and 14.2 rebounds, the only player in the nation to rank in the top 10 in both categories. She has recorded double-doubles in each of Cal’s six outings, leading the nation in the category thus far.

The two stars have similar styles on the offensive end.

At 6’4”, both have advantages in terms of height and strength, helping them on the offensive glass. Fluker does her damage with her back to the basket, where she leverages her size to create point-blank shots and putback opportunities, while Anigwe will counter with her mobility as she stretches the floor with high pick and rolls.

The matchup between Anigwe and Fluker will be the key to victory for both teams.

On defense, Anigwe can use her quickness to deny Fluker in the post, as Fluker’s size makes her a problem when she gets the ball down low. On the other end, Northridge employs a 2-3 zone, so while Fluker won’t always be defending Anigwe, the two will have plenty of opportunities to fight for rebounds.

Around Fluker, the Matadors boast three guards who somewhat mirror the starting backcourt trio for the Bears. Like Cal, Northridge starts a graduate transfer in Serafina Maulupe, a volume 3-point shooter who spent time at Virginia Tech before joining the Matadors. Junior Hayley Tanabe and sophomore Meghann Henderson also start for the Matadors, providing solid scoring support along with a blend of 3-point shooting and passing.

Unlike Cal, though, Northridge has experimented with numerous starting lineups so far this season.

While the Bears have started the same group in all six games this year, the Matadors have used five different starting lineups, even bringing Fluker off the bench twice.

Cal comes in with a perfect record, and Sunday’s game shouldn’t change that. The Bears have the outside shooting and interior scoring to pick apart the Matador 2-3 zone, and as long as they are patient, they will have plenty of opportunities.

Cal’s defense also matches up well against Northridge’s attack, as Anigwe can keep Fluker in check while the guards can make sure Maulupe doesn’t get it going from distance.

Anigwe has already done it all this season — winning two out of three conference player of the week honors as well as an ESPNW award for national player of the week. Maybe Fluker, a strong and tall post presence, can stop her. Or maybe not.

Tim Sun covers field hockey / women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].