After dealing a battering and being on the receiving end of one, the California Golden Bears Women’s basketball team looks to improve to 2-1 on the season this Friday when they travel to our nation’s capital to take on the George Washington University. It is a far road trip for the Bears at the start of the season, part of a two game stretch that also sees them square off against the Georgetown Hoyas. And while this trip may seem tiring, especially after hosting #2 Duke, the Golden Bears have enough talent to spoil the Colonials’ Friday night.
Nearly a year ago inside Haas Pavilion, Lindsay Gottlieb‘s ladies routed the visiting Colonials 70-43 with a dominating performance inside the paint, scoring 44 points from close range. Cal went on to win the PAc-12 that year and make history by becoming the first women’s team in school history to make a Final Four appearance. The team is versatile on all fronts, but that same dominance will need to show itself once again if Cal wishes to make their East Coast trip a successful one. Rebounds in particular will need be a focal point.
Against second rank Duke, who boasts one of the best recruiting classes in the country and dynamic players such as Chelsea Gray and Elizabeth Williams, Cal were dominated on the boards being out rebounded 46-39.
It was the difference maker in the game against one of the top teams in the country. Gottlieb however is optimistic and trusts that her squad can win a board battle on most occasions, “I think our offensive rebounding is not an issue for us. This kids on our team are used to going up and grabbing the ball against someone who is physically inferior, so this is why you schedule Duke,” explained Gottlieb after Sunday’s loss.
And if this matchup is any indication that they are not facing Duke, look no further than the Colonial’s new forward, Caira Washington. The freshman has an admirable 13 points and 8 rebound debut against Jackson State last Saturday, but will face a mighty test against Reshanda Gray and Justine Hartman. Gray and Hartman, both juniors stand at 6-3 and 6-2, respectively and have a wealth of experience between them. Anything less than a dominate inside game against the undersized Colonials would a big shock in women’s basketball.
“We don’t want anyone to dictate how we play, we want to be the aggressors,” said Gottlieb about her players. And being that aggressor is paramount against a team that had five players reach double figures in their most previous game. The Colonials shredded Jackson State 101-73, but if the inside presence is dominated and George Washington is forced to work their outside game, Cal can get back on the winning formula with vigor.
“We have more options on the floor this year, we have inside and outside,” Gottlieb continued, “I think we have, maybe, the best perimeter players in the country at being able to defend aggressively with their feet.”
Gottlieb is confident, but for a reason. Brittany Boyd, Mercedes Jefflo, and the bigger guard, Afure Jemerigbe, know how to simply get after it on defensively and force opponents to take tough shots and force ill-timed turnovers.
Boyd, who will lead the point of attack struggled against Duke early, yet still managed to score 13 points and lead the team with 6 assists. Expect her to make amends early and often, and show the East Coast why she is on the Wade Trophy Watch List.
“We’re still learning. And this is a good learning experience for us, the team, the coaches, everything,” Boyd said after the lopsided loss to Duke.
On Friday at 4pm pst, #10/11 Cal should improve to 2-1 on the year and deliver a lesson to the Colonials in the process.
Follow Jeremy on twitter @jermg11