Rocky mountain high? Cal women’s basketball searches for 2nd conference win against Colorado

Josh Kahen/Staff

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Anyone familiar with the singer-songwriter John Denver will know one of his most famous songs,“Rocky Mountain High.” A melancholy song about a young man’s time in Colorado, and the self-reflection and renewal he experiences while roaming the mountain range, “Rocky Mountain High” is an American folk music classic.

Cal women’s basketball (9-14, 1-11) heads to Colorado on Friday in what might be a soul-searching mission of its own. But instead of looking for that new life in the Rocky Mountains, the Bears will pursue a fresh start to their season at CU Events Center, as they take on the Buffaloes (14-9, 3-9) for the second time this year.

Colorado has lost four straight games — their longest skid of the season. But a home game against the struggling Bears could be just what the doctor ordered. Their last win? That’s right, it came against Cal late last month. The 62-50 road win is the Buffaloes’ only victory in their last eight games, and was their first triumph in Berkeley since 2017.

Much of Colorado’s lack of success can be chalked up to turnovers. In their last game against Washington, the Buffs turned the ball over nine times in the fourth quarter and 20 times over the course of the game. The Buffs rank dead last among Pac-12 teams in turnovers this season, averaging 17 per game.

Colorado is a relatively young team, with only one senior starting in over half of its games this season. Junior forward Mya Hollingshed has captained the ship thus far, leading her team in scoring with 13.6 points per game. Nipping at her heels are freshman guard Jaylyn Sherrod and sophomore guard Emma Clarke, who average 10.1 and 10.7 points per game, respectively.

In their last meeting, the Bears struggled to get their best scorers into double digits and suffered for it. In the late January matchup, senior forward Jaelyn Brown led the team in scoring with 12 points. Freshman forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt came in second with 11. Unsurprisingly, two players barely reaching double digits in scoring was not nearly enough to beat the Buffs.

It might be expected that Cal will do equally as poorly this time on the offensive side of the ball. But in light of recent performances, multiple Bears could very well earn some rocky mountain (season) highs on their road trip to the Centennial State.

In their last game, a hard-fought overtime loss against No. 7 UCLA, the Bears had four players in double digits. This was a huge step in the right direction for a Bears team that has struggled all season to get players other than Brown involved in scoring.

Especially encouraging for first-year head coach Charmin Smith and Cal fans is the progress of true freshman guard Cailyn Crocker, who put up 12 points and shot 57.1% from the field against one of the best teams in the country Sunday. A natural scorer who is still getting used to the speed of the college game, Crocker has scored 11 and 15 points in earlier games this season as well.

Another young player to keep your eye on is another freshman guard Leilani McIntosh, who put up 11 points Sunday against the Bruins, her second double-digit game of her Cal career. Brimming with confidence after a positive showing against a national title contender, look for McIntosh and Crocker to break out against the Buffs.

The Bears are on the cusp of winning consistently, as evidenced by a fantastic performance against the Bruins. But well over halfway through a tumultuous season, the Bears need to find themselves — their game and their pace — sooner rather than later.

A bit of introspection on a trip to the Rocky Mountains could do the trick.

William Cooke covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].