In the wild, bears hibernate for the winter and emerge rejuvenated and ready to take on new challenges.
After a long, dark hibernation of a season plagued by COVID-19 restrictions, Cal women’s basketball did just that with a tough win over the Westmont College Warriors in their season debut. Now the Bears look to hunt down their next opponent, Saint Martin’s University, on Thursday, Nov. 4.
Suffering from a pair of brutal blowout losses to Washington State and Oregon by a combined margin of 118 points on their Pac-12 exhibition game tour, Saint Martin’s aims to avenge themselves against the blue and gold. In a rather stunning matchup, the top-ten ranked Oregon Ducks imposed an extraordinary 38-0 scoring run and held the Saints scoreless until the 5:20 mark of the second quarter. The Bears seek to shake off their slow start against Westmont and pounce on Saint Martin’s in a similar manner — from the first whistle.
Although the matchup is an exhibition game that will not count towards a W on their record in the official scorebook, a win Thursday would be valued as a boost of momentum and confidence coming off a rough 2020-21 season, in which W’s came sparingly.
“We are not really treating this as an exhibition game, we are treating this as any other game we would play and we want to go out there and make sure we can be successful and show what we’ve been working on,” junior guard Cailyn Crocker said. “Wins this season, for us, mean everything.”
For Cal, this matchup serves as an opportunity to showcase defensive fundamentals, transition game and build confidence as a unit. The Bears displayed elite rebounding efficiency against Westmont, with junior Evelien Lutje Schipolt totaling 16 boards and graduate student Jadyn Bush collecting 10 of her own, to help nearly double the rebounding efforts of the Warriors.
Looking forward, Cal plans to prioritize boxing out, crashing the glass and holding their opponent to a single shot attempt per possession as a defensive tactic. The blue and gold will need to expose and capitalize on the scoring woes the Saints have faced thus far.
The start of this season is the first time since February of 2020 that spectators are permitted in Haas Pavilion and the support that fans bring to the team has already been a crucial element in the team’s performance.
“The energy is different and we had a lot of supporters, even in our exhibition game last week, so we are really excited just to be back with everybody,” said Crocker.
The match featuring the return of fans tips off at 7pm PST on Thursday, Nov. 4 and will be played at Cal’s Haas Pavilion. This winter will not be a time for hibernation for a team fresh off of an underwhelming 2020-21 season and the Bears will have to put in their all to notch a win against the Saints.
Jane Kenny covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].