Of all the gifts to receive on the eve of Christmas Eve, a 90-69 shellacking from the No. 2 team in the nation probably wasn’t high on the Bears’ wishlist. In its first Pac-12 game of the 2022 season, Cal women’s basketball learned precisely why Stanford is the team to beat in the conference, and maybe in the entire country.
Haley Jones led the way for Stanford. The senior guard led all scorers with 21 points on 10-14 shooting while also adding 10 rebounds and four assists. Cal had few answers to Jones, whose height and athleticism at 6’1” created mismatches all over the court for the Bears’ defense.
“In the first half, we did a good job on Hannah (Jump) but Haley (Jones) was killing us. She’s a tough matchup for us with her size on the perimeter,” head coach Charmin Smith said. “She is the key to this team … We’ll have to keep working to find a way to stop her next time.”
In the next matchup, it would not be a surprise if the Bears opted for a defense other than man-to-man. Kemery Martín drew the short straw as Jones’s primary defender, as the only guard on the team who had a chance to match up with Jones one-on-one. But Jones got whatever she wanted against man-to-man coverage; in the interior in transition, on back cuts, in set plays, in the pick-and-roll, Jones scored her 21 points without breaking a sweat.
That was the story of the game. Stanford scored its points with ease and Cal did not. For every Cardinal bucket tallied via a wide open jumper or a point blank layup, the Bears found themselves forced into chucking up contested shots and wandering into the towering Stanford defenders in the lane. The Bears scored 69 points but each of those points were threaded through needle after needle; whereas Stanford waltzed into its 90 points effortlessly.
“There were a lot of times where we were forcing shots up against the trees and we have to find better looks,” Smith said. “Pun intended.”
Nevertheless, the Bears have a lot to be excited about heading into their next game versus Arizona. For one, scoring 69 points against No. 2 Stanford is something to be encouraged about, considering how hard those 69 points were to come by. And secondly, Jayda Curry and Leilani McIntosh combined for 37 points, scoring 20 and 17 respectively. Curry specifically rebounded from a tough start in which she missed her first seven shots, going 1-8 in the first half. As Smith emphasized, Curry’s second half shot quality was all contested. But she found her groove in the second half, scoring 18 points on 5-10 shooting.
“Just keeping the same mentality that shots will eventually fall and I have teammates who are sitting there telling me to, ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting,’ so it’s never a thing of like ‘I’m going to stop shooting cause I can’t hit a shot.’ Everybody keeps encouraging me that the shots are going to fall,” Curry said.
The Bears worked to get Curry open off of off-ball screens which allowed her to see some daylight on her shots. The first half was full of possessions that devolved into one-on-one basketball so it was encouraging to see the team make adjustments that helped Curry get going.
As the 18th-ranked team in the country, Arizona is going to be another battle for the Bears. It has four scorers averaging double-digits and another stellar guard Cal will have to handle in Shaina Pellington. Arizona has won each of its 10 wins by double digits; it has yet to be tested, and the Bears hope to provide that punch for them.