Cal women’s basketball prepares for sharpshooting Saint Mary’s Gaels

Jenna Wong/Staff

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That’s how many days it’s been since No. 13 Cal women’s basketball last lost a game, and the Bears have no plans to stop that number from rising. After an electrifying 7-0 start, Cal will be looking to continue its impressive streak against Saint Mary’s this Saturday afternoon.

The Bears, unfortunately, may be short-handed against the Gaels after losing senior guard Asha Thomas to a knee injury against Cal State Northridge. Even if Thomas is able to play, her minutes may be limited.

In her absence, expect more responsibility to fall on sophomore guard Kianna Smith. In the Bears’ last game, Smith put up an impressive showing against the Matadors to the tune of 14 points.

While Smith can help to shore up some of Thomas’ scoring, graduate transfer guard Receé Caldwell can serve as Cal’s primary facilitator. Caldwell is a talented passer, showing off her skills with nine dimes last game.

The Gaels will be entering the contest with two strong wins against Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. Combine that with their home-court advantage, and the shorthanded Bears will be facing one of their toughest challenges of the season.

Saint Mary’s will be fielding a talented group of guards, with sophomore Emily Codding coming off an especially impressive performance against Cal Poly — 15 points on four triples.

The Gaels have been on fire from behind the arc this season, nailing an absurd 15 treys in their last contest. This will be a tough test for the Bears’ perimeter defense, and they’ll need to respond well to avoid being buried by an avalanche from behind the arc.

In the frontcourt, the Gaels are especially deadly. Seniors Sydney Raggio and Megan McKay make up a talented and experienced duo in the paint. They’ll have the size to match up well with the Bears, but Cal will have speed on its side.

Senior Kristine Anigwe and junior Jaelyn Brown are a lightning-quick frontcourt. Utilizing that speed to run will be head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s No. 1 priority against the Gaels. With Thomas’ possible absence, Gottlieb will need her star Anigwe to carry an even bigger load this Saturday.

Anigwe is coming off a 26-point and 10-rebound performance against the Matadors, a stat line she was able to achieve in just 18 minutes. Anigwe will be Cal’s undisputed leader on the court, but if she is without her longtime running mate Thomas, she’ll have to work a little harder to get some of her buckets.

The Bears’ X-factor in this game will be freshman McKenzie Forbes. Forbes has had a slow start to the year so far, but after seeing a season high in minutes last game against Cal State Northridge, she’ll have the opportunity to showcase her talented shooting and passing skills this Saturday.

Cal has had a historic start to the season thus far, dominating its opponents as the quarter-season mark approaches. But with Thomas’ injury, the Bears are going to have to tighten up if they want to keep their streak burning.

Harshil Desai covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @harshdailycal.