Cal women’s basketball continues to nose-dive in form, losing its first conference road game at Arizona. Now, the opponent is No. 19 Arizona State, and the Bears have to turn the tables around.
No. 24 Cal (even though it’s hard to imagine that the Bears will still be ranked by Monday) started the season with nine wins before dropping one against then-No. 1 UConn. A hard-fought game against the Huskies that ultimately resulted in a loss was nothing to worry about, but since then, Cal (10-4, 1-2) has lost four of its last five games, and only UConn was a ranked opponent.
Arizona State, on the other hand, dropped three of its four losses this season to top-10 teams, with the only other loss coming against cross-state rival Arizona.
The Sun Devils (11-4, 2-2) lost their first game of the weekend against No. 6 Stanford, 72-65. Arizona State dominated on the offensive boards against the Cardinal with 22 and had 74 field goal attempts to Stanford’s 50, but the difference in accuracy is what led to the Cardinal win.
Sunday’s matchup will be a battle under the basket, as Cal is another good rebounding team, led by the nation’s leading rebounder Kristine Anigwe, who averages 13.9 per game.
Arizona State forced 16 Stanford turnovers and will be looking to recreate that stat against Cal. The Bears have had their fair share of problems handling the ball, most recently turning the ball over 18 times against Arizona.
Cal ranks dead last in the Pac-12 with 16.7 turnovers per game in Pac-12 play so far. The Bears turned the ball over 19 times in their loss to UCLA and 13 times when they defeated USC.
Cal’s offensive troubles are also evident in its ratio of 1.09 assists per turnover. A couple games into the season, Cal seemed to click in the backcourt, but the guards’ performance slipped with the start of conference play.
In Pac-12 play, the Bears have had trouble finding their shot, converting only 26.7 percent of their attempts from behind the arc.
Receé Caldwell had one of her best games against Arizona, but fellow guard Asha Thomas had one of her worst. Considering that Anigwe delivers a double-double every game with a consistency that head coach Lindsay Gottlieb can rely on, the Bears need their two experienced players, Caldwell and Thomas, to play well together in order for the team to reach its full potential.
Arizona State is led by two seniors, forward Kianna Ibis and guard/forward Courtney Ekmark. Ibis and Ekmark are the only two players scoring in double digits for the Sun Devils this season with 12.6 and 10.5 points per game, respectively.
Fellow senior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman leads Arizona State with 6.7 rebounds per game, but she will have a tough time defending Anigwe down low.
The key to a Cal win will be controlling the tempo and running the floor while taking careful care of the ball. Cal guards, even though they need to regain their rhythm, are capable of doing just that, and the rest of their team will need them to deliver to show that high hopes for the Bears are still worth having.
The Bears will try to top the Sun Devils on Sunday to prove to the world they are still a top team looking for a deep run this season.