Bears or Buffaloes? Cal faces off against a familiar foe

Photo of Cal Women's Basketball in a huddle
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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The Bears made their long-awaited return to the court Friday night, taking on the Utah Utes in what ended up being a close game. While Cal lost and fell to 0-12, the team has reasons for optimism going into its afternoon matchup against Colorado on Super Bowl Sunday.

First, the Bears got some much-needed help from newly acquired freshman guard Mia Mastrov. She was quite the maestro in her first game, orchestrating the offense with a 20-point outing in her college debut. Beyond that, she chipped in six rebounds and two steals.

While she didn’t have the most efficient shooting night, Mastrov showed in just one game that she is a dynamic scorer at the college level, and she adds a whole new dimension to Cal’s offense for not only the short term but the long term as well. Bears fans should be ecstatic that Mastrov is on the team and should look to her to have another strong showing against the Buffaloes.

Though it’ll be just Mastrov’s second game, she will certainly be at the center of Colorado’s scouting report and could get frequent traps or double-teams thrown at her. For Cal to win this game, everyone must step up.

As an old adage says, “experience is life’s greatest teacher,” and luckily for the Bears, they have already played the Buffaloes once this season and had a respectable showing. While the final box score suggests that it was not that close of a game, Cal had some positive takeaways. Besides during the second quarter of that game, the Bears were never outscored by more than 4 in a quarter, and they shot a solid 37% from three on 27 attempts. Moreover, they tied Colorado in rebounds and actually had more assists than the Buffaloes.

Starting point guard Leilani McIntosh arguably had her best game of the season against the Buffaloes, with 14 points and 10 assists on 50% shooting from the field. Ugonne Onyiah also had a great showing with a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double. And the addition of a natural scorer like Mastrov to the lineup opens the floor up for everybody else.

The key to every Cal loss this season has been excessive turnovers, and Colorado feasted off of the Bears’ hiccups in their last matchup, scoring 23 points off of turnovers. The Buffaloes average 17.8 points per game off turnovers, so not letting Colorado get above this average should be a reasonable goal for the Bears. Limiting turnovers is arguably the No. 1 factor to winning this game, as Colorado has a well-balanced offense in which three players are averaging double-digit point totals.

The Buffaloes are currently only 6-9 on the season and 4-8 in conference play, so this will be a great opportunity for the Bears to snatch their first win. Catch this matchup on Pac-12 Networks on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Justin Kim covers women’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected]