Cal women’s basketball is off to a steady start as it has rolled to a 3-0 start to the season, with Utah State as its latest victim. The Bears defeated the Aggies 81-49 in a physical contest Tuesday.
With a 19-6 scoring run in the first quarter, the blue and gold assumed control of the contest early on their way to a 32-point victory. Although Cal struggled to convert open looks from the perimeter throughout the game, connecting a mere 27 of 73 shot attempts, the Bears found triumph through their relentless efforts on the glass. As a team, Cal outrebounded the Aggies 57-41, with 23 offensive rebounds resulting in 23 second-chance points.
A pattern witnessed in their previous matchups, the Bears once again proved the ability of their fundamental team defense in fueling opportunities in the offensive half-court. Cal defenders were able to deny the Aggies’ drive-oriented offensive by containing the ball and forcing the extra pass. Strategically occupying the gaps on defense, the Bears translated 23 forced turnovers into 25 points.
It was a night to remember for junior Evelien Lutje Schipholt, the undoubtable star of the game for the Bears. A defiant difference-maker in the paint, Lutje Schipholt tallied a career-high 17 rebounds and career-best 5 blocks. The 6’2” forward from the Netherlands also led all scorers en route to a career-high 23 points, on 10-16 shooting. Moreover, with a made free-throw line jumper at the 8:31 mark of the fourth quarter, Lutje Schipholt, typically a hesitant shooter, exhibited promise in extending her range to become a potential perimeter threat.
“I really am proud of her effort and her ability to finish, make the right reads, be extremely aggressive on the glass and lock in defensively. She’s helping us on both ends of the floor,” said head coach Charmin Smith in a postgame press conference.
In the absence of junior guard Leilani McIntosh, who exited the court early in the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury, the rest of the team stepped up. Honored as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Monday, point guard Jayda Curry achieved double figures with 18 points, and went 3-7 from 3-point land. Sophomore Dalayah Daniels contributed 11 points of her own and graduate student Jadyn Bush added eight points and seven rebounds.
The blue and gold held Utah State to 18-64 shooting and 2-15 from 3-point range. Senior guard and forward E’Lease Stafford led the Aggies with 13 points, followed by senior forward Laci Hawthorne with 10 points.
Moving forward, Cal will travel to sunny San Diego this Saturday, Nov. 20, to take on UCSD of the Big West Conference. The Bears hope to remedy their shooting woes while further building upon their defensive success as they look to hand the Tritons their second loss of the season.
Shooting an uninspiring 30% from 3-point range and 40% from the field on the season as a team, UCSD will likely build from its defensive alertness. In its latest match-up, which was a blowout victory over Westcliff University, the Tritons tallied 30 points off of forced turnovers.
The Bears will need to mitigate the offensive attacks of the Tritons’ two talented guards, Madison Baxter and Parker Montgomery, who are both coming off of career highs in scoring against Westcliff. In its first three contests, UCSD shot a deficient 25-49 from the charity stripe, which minimizes Cal’s concern over the Tritons’ potential drives to the paint.
Further, Cal hopes to penalize UCSD with their dominant rebounding and defensive performance seen thus far this season. The blue and gold will look to the likes of Lutje Schipholt, Curry, Bush and Daniels to crash the boards on both ends of the court and produce second chance buckets. The Bears must continue to use their defensive firepower to propel the offense and convert fast break points.
Tune in Saturday, Nov. 2o at 4 p.m. as Cal pursues a 4-0 record with a road victory over UCSD.
Jane Kenny covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].