Finals week and the Fall 2011 semester are slowly coming to an end, and yours truly is going to have a lot more time to present you Golden Bear Lair readers with more basketball coverage! The Cal Women’s Basketball season has shown amazing progress throughout ten nonconference games. Typically nonconference play doesn’t feature that many interesting games, but you cannot say that about this team. Already they’ve traveled to play Rutgers and also had a nonconference game against Texas and Virginia, all ranked at the time (Rutgers is in the Top 10 even) and now are facing their marquee home nonconference matchup against Ohio State, ranked #12 in the AP and #14 in the USA Today Polls.
So far the Bears have gotten off to a hot 8-2 start, including a five game winning streak, and their only two losses have come in close games against Rutgers and Texas, that saw the Bears leading each game throughout only to falter late. The best win for the Bears clearly is their win against then-ranked Virginia and former coach Joanne Boyle. The Bears had control throughout and won by nine, in a game that was played in beautiful Hawaii in a tournament hosted by the University of Hawaii, who were soundly defeated by Cal, although Hawaii isn’t considered a great team.
The home schedule has featured games against Sacramento State, Illinois, Cal State Bakersfield, UNLV and Santa Clara sandwiched between a “road” game at St. Mary’s, which I heard a lot of Golden Bears fans were able to attend! The Bears won all those games, with Santa Clara and Illinois being considered quality wins.
Now for our team, it’s been amazing to see the production that has come from Britanny Boyd, Reshanda Gray and Justine Hartman. Then again, they were star recruits coming out of highschool, and anyone following the team in the 2009-2010 season know are probably accustomed to seeing freshmen produce early. We still haven’t even seen Erika Johnson much yet, and she will hopefully become a star later in her career. When she has come in, she has played well. Against CSU Bakersfield last week, she had five points and had four rebounds in just eight minutes of work.
Reshanda Gray has scored in double figures in nearly every game this season, and Brittany Boyd is second in the Pac-12 in assists with 4.88, which is also 50th in the nation.
Gennifer Brandon, who redshirted last year because of injury, has been a great rebounder and defender, making up for the departed Denesha Stallworth quite nicely. She averages 9.4 rebounds a game, which leads the team and is fifth among Pac-12 players. In four of the ten games played so far, Gennifer has reached double digits in rebounds, and set the bar pretty high for herself by getting 15 against Rutgers in the opener.
Layshia Clarendon is still the feature guard and is a great leader of the team. She had a double double against Virginia and is averaging more than 10 points a game. She has almost made nearly 50% of her threes during this win streak.
We also can’t forget about Eliza Pierre who’s still a beast defensively despite her size. During the Bears five game win streak, Pierre has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 19 to 5 or 3.8. She also has three blocks in the past five games, amazing for her at 5’7. That’s equal or better than Cal’s four post players.
The team still has to fix problems with turnovers, but the offensive has come together nicely and is erasing memories of last year in a flash. That’s on the new coaching staff who has done an AMAZING job so far, but more tests lie ahead.
Next Saturday the Bears host Ohio State, as I mentioned earlier, and it’ll be the biggest game the Bears have played since… well, when they play Stanford every year. However the Bears need to make a statement. I have been at several postgame press conferences this year. It’s new to me so I haven’t been asking too many questions, but I did ask Lindsay if she thinks the team deserves more respect. She said the players deserve to be ranked, but it’s still early and the media doesn’t know about us yet. At 8-2, the Bears have received votes in recent polls, and is actually #26 in the AP Poll, but has yet to crack the Top 25 this season. No way that happens with a loss to Ohio State, and it’ll be tough to get respect unless the Bears pull off some early conference wins (which I believe they will). With a win though? We could be talking instant Top-20. Of course, we have conference play, and we Cal fans know rankings don’t mean much this early (just look at the Men’s team this year) but the players deserve it, and it’ll be a fun Saturday afternoon at Haas. Be there!