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BERKELEY'S NEWS • FEBRUARY 01, 2023

Ring in the New Year with our 2023 New Year's Special Issue!

Cowgirl clash: Bears look to harvest a win against McNeese State

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CAROLINE LOBEL | STAFF

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DECEMBER 10, 2021

With the orange and yellow leaves characteristic of autumn beginning to wither from their branches, and the air turning a crisp and chilly temperature, the most magnificent time of the year is finally in full swing. It’s not just the holiday season, but rather, basketball season. And there’s nothing quite like it.

This Saturday, Cal fans have much to look forward to as Cal women’s basketball squares off against McNeese State with an early afternoon tipoff.

Returning home from Bud Walton Arena with a second, frustrating loss in the record book, the blue and gold hope to zone in on correcting unnecessary foolish fouls that allowed the Razorbacks to excel offensively.

McNeese State enters the matchup with a 3-5 overall record, coming off of a disheartening three-game losing streak. As a team, the Cowgirls are averaging 73.0 points per game and shooting 38.2% from the field. Cal will need to be wary of the Cowgirls in the paint, as they average 43.5 rebounds per game and possess enough height in their lineup to pose a threat to the Bears’ front court.

The Cowgirls are led by 6’0” junior guard Desirae Hansen, who averages 10.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest. Hansen is complemented in the back court by 5’10” sophomore guard Zuzanna Kulinska, who contributes 10.0 points per game on 41.3% from the field, as well as 5’9” freshman guard Kaili Chamberlin, who shoots an impressive 40.5% from 3-point range. On the low block, the Cowgirls’ 6’1” junior forward Divine Tanks will call for particular attention, as she averages 8.3 boards per game.

Heading into the matchup, head coach Charmin Smith wants her team to focus on playing its game, rather than playing down to the level of its opponents.

“We sometimes play more out of not wanting to do the wrong thing, versus eagerly trying to do the right thing. That makes us hesitant and less aggressive … we need to settle down and play with more poise,” Smith said.

McNeese State is characterized by a lengthy lineup and its ambitious full-court press defense used in previous matchups. Combating this strategy will take patience, poise and smart decision-making. Luckily, the Bears have a strong back court to take on this task.

Three-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week and one of the top-scoring freshman in the nation, Jayda Curry shows no signs of slowing down. The fearless point guard is currently averaging 19.9 points per contest. Accompanying her are proven facilitators in junior guards Cailyn Crocker and Leilani McIntosh. Their court vision and decisions under pressure will be crucial for the Bears, as McNeese State swipes up an average of 9.5 steals per game.

Although Arkansas may have put a damper on Cal, overall the blue and gold have found their lockdown team defense to be the most effective strategy for producing offensive opportunities. With the Cowgirls operating in a full-court press defense, steals and transition buckets will not only be an ideal method of production, but will also propel momentum and create confidence for the Bears on both ends of the court.

With just three matchups ahead of impending Pac-12 play, the Bears must use Saturday’s contest as an opportunity to regain their composure on the court and rectify those small errors against a weaker team in McNeese State. The blue and gold aim to re-establish their newfound winning culture after a tough road loss to Arkansas, and look for fan support in Haas Pavilion at 2 p.m. PST as they take on the Cowgirls.

Jane Kenny covers women’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

DECEMBER 10, 2021


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