After a long offseason of uncertainty due to COVID-19, Cal women’s basketball is finally back. While the disease has certainly complicated this season, the Bears will look to start it off with a win against the Spartans, as San Jose State visits Cal.
Although the Spartans have not beat the Bears in over a decade, Cal must remain disciplined on the defensive side of the ball, as SJSU can be a handful — the team has its share of dynamic guards and forwards, specifically Ayzhiana Basallo and Tyra Whitehead.
Basallo, a junior guard, was voted for the 2020-21 Preseason All-Mountain West team, and averaged a team-high 18.5 points per game last season. Furthermore, she shot an efficient 45.4% from distance and sank free throws at an absurd 92.5% clip. Next, Whitehead, a senior forward, has a history of being a double-double machine as she averaged 13.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season.
Outside of these players, the Spartans are still a very strong team. They boasted a respectable 19-12 record last season while ranking No. 7 for points per possession in catch and shoot situations last season, and finished top 15 in both steals and assists per game.
To mitigate SJSU’s particularly strong shooting and defensive awareness, Cal will have to stay sharp on both sides of the ball. Although the Spartans should expect to see an all-around team effort from the Bears, look for them to pressure sophomore guard Jazlen Green, who recently received Preseason All-Pac-12 Honors. Furthermore, Green played substantial minutes as a freshman (20.8 per game), was the second-highest scorer on the team and led the team in made threes last season.
While Green will likely have her fair share of offensive responsibilities, look for head coach Charmin Smith to rely on sophomore forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt and sophomore guard Cailyn Crocker to help carry the load.
Like Green, Crocker also played valuable minutes for Cal last season, averaging 20.5 minutes per contest. She was excellent at the charity stripe, boasting the seventh-highest free throw percentage in program history and showing flashes of offensive excellence with a career-high 26 point, five-assist performance in a Cal victory over Utah.
Meanwhile, Lutje will be integral for the Bears’ interior defense and second-chance points against the Spartans. Schipholt led the team in offensive rebounds and ranked third in the conference with her 39 blocks last season, averaging a monstrous 1.3 blocks per contest.
While the Spartans will be hungry for their first season opener win in five years, the Bears will be looking to defend their home court. Be sure to catch these two teams facing off at Haas Pavilion at 4 p.m. this Wednesday.
Justin Kim covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].