The 2022-2023 season has not been kind to Cal women’s basketball. The blue and gold are 12-13 overall, 3-11 in Pac-12 conference play and 3-6 on the road — if you want to get into the nitty gritty, 1-1 at neutral sites. But the one bright spot for the Bears is their 8-6 home record.
However, that 8-6 record at Haas Pavilion is in jeopardy this weekend. Cal women’s basketball hosts No. 18 UCLA and No. 25 USC, two teams that overwhelmed the Bears in Southern California earlier this season. In that early-season road trip, Cal was outscored a combined 150-113. And out of the eight quarters played in that two game stretch, the Bears only outscored their Los Angeles rivals in two quarters. They were outmatched and outperformed in what was the roughest part of their season this year.
Now with four games left, Cal is going to have to beat a top-25 team, something they have yet to accomplish, to clinch a winning home record. The team has had ample opportunities to pull off an upset: Cal has had its chance against Stanford, Utah and Arizona, and yet each of those teams is undefeated against the Bears this season. Losses to No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 24 Colorado don’t help either.
Of the two Southern California teams this weekend, UCLA is going to spell the most trouble for the Bears. Cal tends to struggle against tall perimeter oriented guards; the Bruins have two in Charisma Osborne and Kiki Rice, the two leading scorers for their team. In the first game versus UCLA this season, Osborne and Rice dominated the Bears. Osborne tallied a team-high 17 points while Rice collected a double-double on 15 points and 12 assists.
But UCLA’s 87-70 scoreline against the Bears is a little deceiving. The Bears hung with the Bruins throughout the entire game, thanks to the shooting of Kemery Martín. UCLA unwound Cal in the fourth quarter — a familiar story for the Bears this season. The Bruins closed the final four minutes of the game with a 17-5 run. If Cal wants to be in position to upset, it cannot collapse in the fourth quarter, which has happened many times.
The USC game Sunday, which will be the final home game of the season, isn’t going to be easy either. Unlike UCLA’s double-digit win over Cal, USC’s 63-43 win wasn’t deceiving. The Trojans wasted no time demolishing the Bears, opening the game on a 13-0 run. It took over five minutes for the Bears to score their first points.
USC will try to expose Cal’s other weakness: interior defense. The frontcourt tandem of Kadi Sissoko and Rayah Marshall has been the Trojans’ bread and butter all season. Sissoko was absent in the first match due to injury, so she might spell trouble versus this Bears team that has yet to play against her this season.
In the UCLA game, there was a semblance of hope; in the USC game, there was never hope. What’s to be learned from these two blowout losses? The Bears have to play a complete game. They’ve yet to do that versus high-caliber opponents.
A successful homestand could be just what this team needs to gain some momentum heading into the Pac-12 tournament and a winning record at Haas Pavilion.