After a slow start to the season, the Bears have been on fire as of late, racing out to six straight wins. Their perfect home record will be on the line, however, when they match up against Santa Clara on Saturday. The Broncos have been up-and-down this season, but should still give the Bears a good test as their nonconference schedule winds down.
Santa Clara comes into the game at an even .500, with a balanced 4-4 record. The team was most recently in action Friday against the Long Beach State 49ers, when it was defeated 54-46. Cal defeated the same Long Beach State team 68-45 in the Cal Classic tournament Nov. 30. The Broncos are a streaky team which can put up points in bunches, but also have a tendency to get cold.
Leading Long Beach State in the third quarter, the Broncos had a nine-minute stretch where they failed to score a point, allowing the 49ers to take control of the game. They also gave up 26 turnovers, something the Bears should look to capitalize on.
Santa Clara has been led in scoring this season by senior Tia Hay (12.8 ppg) and redshirt junior Ashlyn Herlihy (11.6 ppg) — players who have carried the Broncos to an efficient average of 71.3 points per game. Hay is a quick and elusive guard who can knock down the three, while the 6’1” Herlihy is a dominating presence on the boards, averaging 7.0 rebounds per game. The Bears will need to be at their best defensively to shut these two down.
The Bears are coming off of a 73-62 victory over Boston University last weekend, led by four players who scored in double figures. Balanced scoring by committee has been how the Bears have succeeded all year long, and they replicated that once again en route to their victory over the Terriers.
Once again senior Jaelyn Brown paced the Bears in scoring — her 11 points tied with Alaysia Styles for the team’s best. Expect these two to play a key role against the Broncos on Saturday. Freshman Jazlen Green tallied her third straight game scoring in double digits, and will look to keep that streak alive this weekend.
Despite the win, Cal head coach Charmin Smith saw some issues with the Bears’ performance.
“I don’t think we had a lot of energy today. I think the focus was off. I’m not quite sure why, but I just asked them to really get dialed in on each other and on this moment,” Smith said. “And sometimes, college students, there’s a lot of things in their minds — and we’ve got exams coming up and all kinds of things that really can’t be an excuse. We’ve got to lock in and be present. I didn’t think we were as present as we’ve been in previous games.”
The Bears will need to correct their energy issues immediately, as they only have three nonconference games before tough Pac-12 play starts up, and the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats come into town next weekend. This matchup against Santa Clara represents the perfect opportunity for the Bears to get back on track. The last time these teams met in 2017, the Bears pulled out a 79-41 victory in Santa Clara. The game tips off 4:30 p.m. in Haas Pavilion on Saturday.
Benjamin Coleman covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].