Bears stampede Mustangs, look for victory against Saint Mary’s

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Eran Kohen Behar/Staff

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Cal made it rain all night on Cal Poly — perhaps inspired by the weather in Berkeley.

The Bears improved to 8-2 on Saturday with a commanding 89-73 win over the Mustangs. The difference ended up being Cal sinking a season-high 10 threes on 18 attempts. Not only did Cal win the game, but it also provided further evidence that its offense is legit.

Cementing her reliable scoring ability, point guard Jayda Curry took center stage once again. Just like another Bay Area Curry sporting the number 30, the freshman sensation impressed from beyond the arc, knocking down 4-6 attempts as she tied her career-high 27 points. 

Curry isn’t just leading Cal in scoring; she now leads the entire Pac-12 in points per game as well. The once relatively unrecognized prospect is already dominating in her freshman year, but not compiling individual stats at the expense of her team: Cal is averaging 76.3 points per game, good for second in the conference. This is a shocking 26 points per game jump for a team that was last in the conference last year, and Curry is one of the primary factors for this sudden improvement.

Of course, she hasn’t done it alone. Junior Jazlen Green elevated her level of play Saturday afternoon with a career-high 20 points on 7-13 from the field. Even with her own hot shooting hand, Green was unselfish with the basketball with four assists contributing to the Bears’ stellar ball movement.

Facing more than just their fair share of shooting woes in previous contests this season, the blue and gold have been reliant on their firepower in the frontcourt to produce points in the paint. 

Heading into Saturday’s matchup, the Bears were aware of Cal Poly’s characteristic aggressive on-ball defense and recognized an inside-out style of play as an effective plan of combat. Thus, Cal found success in penetrating the middle, forcing the Mustangs’ defensive help-side rotation, which opened up shooters on the perimeter. 

It just happened to be Cal’s night, with a season-high 10 made 3-point attempts: Shots were falling.

“One of our goals coming into the game was sharing the ball and we did a really good job of that. A bunch of people scored, we had four people in double-digits, so just making the extra pass we got a lot of open looks,” Curry said. 

The Bears now look ahead to another home game Tuesday Dec. 21, this time against St. Mary’s.  While the blue and gold do carry lots of offensive momentum, coach Charmin Smith knows that they also need to buckle down on defense to get a win. After Saturday’s victory, she remarked how the team needs to buckle down on defense.

“Again, this is a game where we had nine blocks and we were relying on our size and athleticism instead of our defensive principles,” Smith said. “We really have to clean that up before we get into Pac-12 play or Saint Mary’s even because I think that Saint Mary’s is a really good team.”

St. Mary’s has been on a roll lately, winning four of its last five games. The only loss in that stretch came against No. 2-ranked North Carolina State.  This is not a game Cal would have been expected to win in its recent history. However, this new team is setting new expectations for the program. If they shoot like they did Saturday, the Bears will likely be heading into Christmas filled with winning cheer.

Casey Grae covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].
Jane Kenny covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].