Winter is no longer just coming — it arrived for the house of Cal women’s basketball over the break. The team suffered a harsh fall from grace, losing its perfect record while going 4-5 since the end of the fall semester. But with school back in session, the Bears have the opportunity to get their season back on track with a visit to No. 21 Utah on Friday.
Dec. 14 may feel like an eternity ago for the students stepping back onto campus, and the sentiment is one the Bears can relate to. At the start of winter break, Cal was a perfect 8-0 and ranked No. 13 in the nation. But a loss to then-No. 1 UConn sent the Bears reeling, as they lost four of their next five matchups, with three losses to unranked teams.
Now, the Bears themselves are unranked, sitting at sixth in the Pac-12, with three top-10 teams remaining on the conference schedule. Cal, though, is coming off of a 2-0 weekend at home, and confidence levels are high despite a rough start to 2019. So this Friday’s matchup against a newly minted top-25 Utah team will be the perfect chance for Cal to turn its season around.
Utah (16-1, 5-1 in Pac-12) is now ranked for the first time since 2008, and in the midst of it all for the Utes is senior Megan Huff, who leads the team with 19.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. At 6’3”, Huff has the size to generate easy buckets down low but also leads the Utes in 3-pointers made with 30.
Freshmen Dre’Una Edwards and Dru Gylten have given the Utes new dimensions to their offense. Edwards is a strong 6’2” wing who can penetrate and create mismatches in the post, and Gylten is a facilitator with great vision, ranking 12th in the nation with 6.3 assists per game.
Behind consistent double-doubles from Huff, a myriad of capable scoring options at the wing and a selfless team culture, Utah has what it takes to be successful.
Despite their record, though, the Utes have yet to be tested by the likes of Oregon or Stanford and have not played many close games.
While only one of the Bears’ past eight games has been decided by more than 10 points, the Utes have had only two games decided by fewer than 10 all season. So in a matchup that will likely come down to the final minutes, Cal’s experience in tight situations may give them the edge.
The Bears finish up their trip to the Rockies with a visit to Colorado (10-7, 0-6) on Sunday. The Buffs have struggled in conference play with their lack of size, but they do have four starting guards averaging double-digit scoring.
With center Kristine Anigwe, Cal will have a clear advantage in the post, but given the Bears’ recent losses against unranked teams, they’ll need to maintain their focus to avoid another disappointment.
The sun has shone brightly for the past few days in Berkeley, and the Bears hope that with it comes the end of a brutal winter break of heartbreak and defeat.
Tim Sun covers women’s basketball. Contact him at