While it was only an exhibition match, Cal women’s basketball’s crushing victory over the Vanguard Lions should have Bears fans excited for what is to come this season. The Bears won decisively 80-58 in a game where Cal was in the driver’s seat from the get-go.
The Bears opened the game with an 11-0 run sparked by forcing turnovers and getting stops on the defensive end. Vanguard shot a measly 22.22% from the field in the first quarter and went one for five from the three-point line — a feat that can be attributed to none other than the Bears’ swarming defense. Entering this season, improvement on the defensive end was a point of emphasis for head coach Charmin Smith.
“Defensively, we can be a lot better with containment. Keeping the ball in front of us and forcing contested shots from our opponents,” said coach Smith.
Defensive consistency will be key this season. The Bears’ perimeter defense versus Vanguard wasn’t perfect: In the second half, the Bears allowed the Lions to shoot eight of 18 from distance.
“We gave up way too many threes,” said forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt. “That’s simply not acceptable. We’re better than that and we all know that we are. We just have to take some pride in our defense.”
On the other end of the court, Jayda Curry drove the offensive avalanche with 30 points on 10 of 13 shooting. Curry notched eight three-pointers, including a buzzer beater to end the half. Curry’s eight three-pointers would have been her collegiate-career best had this game versus Vanguard not been an exhibition match.
Alongside the explosive offensive showing, Curry also showed up on the defensive end, collecting two steals. For Curry, getting better in her sophomore year means becoming a better two-way player.
“My emphasis is being able to be a better two-way player, emphasis on the defensive side.”
Curry also stressed her attention to the mental aspects of the game.
“Just watching a lot of film, watching myself from last year and just learning from how people played me last year.”
Coming off a sensational freshman season, Curry is poised to take her game another step forward.
While Curry and the veterans dominated the Lions, the game served as a kind of dress rehearsal for all of the new Bears. Peanut Tuitele, Claudia Langarita, Kemery Martin, Amaya Bonner and Bella Stevens all stepped onto the Haas Pavilion hardwood for the first time as Cal Bears. While they will formally debut in the season opener Monday, the exhibition match provided the newcomers with a preview of their Cal collegiate career.
“The newcomers are a huge part of our team when we talk about the depth that we’ve added.” Smith said. “Kemery and Peanut both have experience in our conference which means a lot and Claudia, Amaya and Bella are impacting the team and contributing.”
While Curry and Schipholt carried the scoring burden, the newcomers pitched in with a few points here and there. Four-star recruit Bonner looked the most impressive with 7 points on good efficiency. Ultimately, the exhibition game served mostly to acclimate the newcomers to the team culture of Cal women’s basketball.
“I kind of saw it as a kind of practice round for everything,” Schipholt said. “I feel like game days are a lot of routines and we have a lot of new people that don’t know our routines so it’s (about) getting in the flow of things.”
The Bears looked the part in their exhibition match versus Vanguard. While the team has its troubles defensively, Curry displayed the offensive potential of this team. Connecting both ends of the game and emphasizing the two-way mentality Curry has devoted herself to will be key in this team’s success moving forward.
The Bears open the 2022-2023 season Monday versus CSUN.