Cal Women's Basketball begins its upward trend
Can the Bears turn the trajectory around?
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Richard Hourhula, a new writer to the staff. His account and credentials have not been set up yet so we’re posting with the Admin account.
There’s been an emerging superstar, positive non-conference results, thumping defeats, and most recently, a rash of covid-related postponements.
Cal’s women’s basketball team (9-4 overall, 0-2 in conference) has had its fair share of ups and downs at just past the midway point in the season and seems poised to either suffer more numbing defeats or pull off a few upsets. Perhaps a bit of both is on tap with maybe some more postponements mixed in.
The star of the show has been freshmen guard Jayda Curry, already named conference player of the week four times. Curry is the Bears’ leading scorer averaging 19.5 points a game. She’s proven particularly adept at knocking down three-point shots (twenty-six on the season) but is also comfortable leading the fast break and driving the lane.
Also notable for the Bears has been junior post player Evelien Lutje Schipholt who many observers have noted has improved in two years more than any other Cal player in recent memory. She has been a consistent scorer, the team’s leading rebounder, and a strong defensive presence.
The Bears breezed through non-conference play with a 9-2 record, losing only to SEC teams, Ole Miss and Arkansas. It was an admittedly weak schedule but there were nonetheless some impressive results including a 70-41 road drubbing of USF, a 102-60 win over McNeese State, and finally a 73-55 win over a very tough St. Mary’s to close out the OOC slate.
Leilani McIntosh provided steady play at point guard, making up for her lack of size with quickness and grit. Dalayah Daniels showed glimpses of what Bear fans expected of the number one recruit in coach Charmin Smith’s impressive 2020 class. Another member of that class, 6’3” Michelle Oniyah, has developed into a strong rebounder and shot blocker. The Bears were hampered by injuries to two other members of that class, Alma Elsnitz, and Sela Heide, who both saw limited action as they continued their recovery from the injuries that forced them out of last season’s campaign. Junior Jazzy Green and her deadly three-point shot also saw limited playing time as she continues to struggle with injuries. Grad transfer Jaydn Bush provided steady play in the post alongside Lutje-Schipholt, though she too had nagging injuries.
The Bears have managed to play only two conference games, the first on New Year’s Eve against WSU. It promised to be an even match and a good early test for the Bears but covid protocols kept three Cal starters out, including Curry and the Bears suffered a 62-49 defeat.
The following game at Washington was postponed due to Covid. As were this past weekend’s scheduled encounters at Colorado and Utah. In between a home game with Oregon State was also postponed. Thus the January 9 contest against Oregon was only the Bear’s second in the conference. The powerful Ducks easily beat the Bears, 88-53. (Earlier this week Oregon beat UConn.)
Matters don’t get any easier this week as the Bears take on number two ranked Stanford twice, on the Farm tomorrow and at Haas on Sunday at 4:00.
Cal is again at home the following weekend with 10th ranked Arizona coming in Friday at 7:00 and Arizona State on Sunday at noon.
The Bears may struggle this year but with no seniors (save walk-on Sierra Richey) they’ve got everyone coming back next year and will have the addition of Bishop O’Dowd’s Amaya Bonner, the 51st ranked player in the nation. The Bears will hope for better health next season — not to mention the rest of this one.