Cal women’s basketball is 2-0 after beating CSU Bakersfield and Santa Clara by 13 and 15 points, respectively.
Ahead of Cal’s 3 p.m. matinee against the Cal Poly Mustangs on Monday at Haas Pavilion, the Bears’ offense is rolling.
Transfers Ioanna Krimili and Marta Suárez have led the way for Cal’s offense, combining for 60 points or 37.5% of the Bears’ total 160 points in their first two games.
As a team, Cal is making 48.8% of shot attempts and has posted 36 assists through two contests.
Thus far, Cal’s offense is dominant for a team that features six new faces.
However, the Bears believe they’re only clawing the surface in terms of team chemistry.
“I think we’re getting better and better,” Suárez said. “We’re a bunch of newcomers still getting to know each other. (We have) a lot of very talented people with high basketball IQs. We must be patient and keep working, and our game will come.”
Cal has seen encouraging individual performances from a sleuth of Bears to start the year, but the team is aware of the room for tightened screws that come with a revamped roster.
Against the Mustangs, the Bears will be facing a Big West Conference program that is 1-2 and coming off a 56-61 loss to the San Jose State Spartans.
Historically, the Bears are undefeated against the Mustangs, leading the all-time series 7-0. In the last meeting back in 2021, Cal won 89-73 at Haas Pavilion.
Cal Poly’s 37.7 rebounds per game is a focus for Cal, considering the Bears’ rebound margin of -2.5.
But the Bears’ overall defensive execution is what Cal’s fifth-year head coach Charmin Smith will pay extra attention to on Monday.
“It’s all defense,” Smith said. “We have to be better defensively and we have to keep people off the boards. That’s it. Offensively, I’m not worried about us missing shots. We’re not going to shoot 5-for-23 from three (again). But we have to be able to get stops when we’re struggling and not knocking down shots. Defense, defense, defense.”
The Mustangs average 60 points per game, which nears what the Bears have allowed per game at 56.
Guard Annika Shah and forward Natalia Ackerman lead the way in San Luis Obispo, each averaging 12 points a piece.
Bears’ guard Leilani McIntosh and wing McKayla Williams will likely have the responsibility of slowing down the Mustangs’ leading scorers, as Cal’s tandem has been a two-way force on the young season.
Williams, who’s known for her defensive prowess during her three years at Gonzaga, flipped the script and showcased her offensive skill set for the Bears in last Wednesday’s 71-56 win over Santa Clara, posting team-highs with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Her efficiency stood out, as Williams shot 7-of-12 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range.
“I’m not usually the scorer,” Williams laughed postgame. “I just try my best to do whatever we need. If that’s rebounding or just stopping my player.”
The senior transfer is somewhat of a “glue” player, doing a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor while being another veteran presence in the locker room.
Cal has the opportunity to be undefeated through three games for the first time since the 2021-22 season when the Bears started 7-0.
Under Smith, Cal is 7-5 during the first three games of seasons dating back to 2019.
The Mustangs will be facing a second Pac-12 program on the year in Cal, as Cal Poly was defeated 61-78 by the No. 24 Washington State Cougars in its season opener.
The Bears hope to remain perfect in the win-loss column as they play their third-consecutive home game before heading to Auburn to face the Tigers at Neville Arena.