Cal women’s basketball hopes to end 2018 strong against Harvard

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With UConn firmly in the rearview mirror, Cal women’s basketball is slated for one final matchup of 2018, as Harvard visits Haas Pavilion this Sunday afternoon.

The UConn game last Saturday lived up to the hype. The two unbeatens traded blows for 40 minutes, but more efficient shooting from the Huskies led them to victory. Before Cal can look forward to a potential rematch in March, the Bears have a tough Pac-12 schedule to play. And before that, their nonconference finale against the Crimson from Harvard.

Harvard (6-6) is the Ivy League’s perennial bridesmaid. The Crimson have finished third place in their conference for the past four years behind the league’s powerhouses of Penn and Princeton.

After starting its season by getting overwhelmed by then-No. 1 Notre Dame, Harvard is currently riding a two-game winning streak, defeating both Boston University and Rhode Island in blowout fashion.

The Crimson have a balanced attack, led by an experienced group of starters. Junior guard Katie Benzan, a two-time First-Team All-Ivy player and last year’s only unanimous selection, leads the way with 14.4 points per game.

To say Benzan is known as a sharpshooter would be an understatement — three-quarters of her field goal attempts come from downtown, and her tally of 227 career 3-pointers ranks second in program history.

Benzan has hit three or more shots from downtown in all of the past eight games, including a career-high seven against Quinnipiac. And why not, as on her career, she actually shoots a higher percentage from beyond the arc (41.1) than overall (40.6).

But Benzan is a playmaker as well, possessing the quickness to get in the lane and create for others. She is averaging 4.6 assists per game this season and is eighth all time in assists at Harvard.

Alongside Benzan in the backcourt are the two senior co-captains, Sydney Skinner and Madeline Raster. Skinner is less efficient than Benzan but has become a volume secondary scoring option at 12.3 points per game, and Raster is the experienced floor general.

In the frontcourt for the Crimson is 6’3” junior forward Jeannie Boehm, a Second-Team All-Ivy selection last year and another player with plenty of experience. Boehm and Benzan have both started all but one game of their college careers, and Raster has started all but three.

Against Cal, Harvard will have to survive from the 3-point line, much like Cal tried to do against UConn last week. In the Notre Dame game, Harvard took six of its first seven shots from deep, as the size and interior defense of the Irish forced the Crimson to live on the perimeter. The Bears also have the upper hand physically, and Kristine Anigwe will make it just as difficult to score inside.

For Cal, the matchup against Harvard will be a nice chance to get back to its winning ways before entering Pac-12 play. Anigwe should have no problem bouncing back from a season-low point total against UConn, and the guards will have plenty of opportunities to make plays.

With 2018 also soon to be in the rearview mirror, the Bears have one final stop this year in what is predicted to be a comfortable win over Harvard.

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