Preview: Cal squares off against rival Stanford
On Thursday at 8:00 PM PST on Pac-12 Networks, Cal women’s basketball will take on #8 Stanford at Haas Pavilion. Cal comes in at 13-6 overall and 4-4 in the Pac-12 while Stanford comes in at 17-2 overall and 7-1 in the Pac-12.
Last time out: On Sunday, Cal dominated Colorado 80-60. Kristine Anigwe finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, keeping her double-double streak alive.
On Stanford: The Cardinal are led by senior forward Alanna Smith, who is averaging 21.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. While the post is where she’s most effective, Smith is a legit threat from the perimeter as well, shooting 48.1% from 3-point range on more than 5 attempts per game. Smith has blossomed into a legit go-to player on a Pac-12 championship contending team.
The other two Cardinal players scoring in double figures are sophomore guard Kiana Williams (14.7 points & 5 assists) and junior guard DiJonai Carrington (13.1 points & 7.5 rebounds). Williams attempts the most threes of anyone on the team, shooting 36.9% from deep on close to 7 attempts per game. Carrington does most of her work inside, scoring 51.4% of her points inside the 3-point line and 23.2% of her points at the foul line.
The Cardinal have had to deal with their share of injuries this season. Junior forward Nadia Fingall tore her ACL earlier this season while sophomore forward Maya Dodson has missed 8 games due to a foot injury. Dodson’s status for Thursday night appears to be a game-time decision. Despite these injuries, Stanford is playing excellent basketball, dropping just two games on the season (at #15 Gonzaga and at #14 Utah).
Keys to the game: The first thing Cal needs to do in order to win this game is defend Alanna Smith well. While not as dominant on the glass as Kristine Anigwe, Smith is much better from the perimeter, creating a potential mismatch. Cal has to make sure she doesn’t heat up from beyond the arc and force her to get her points down on the block. Anigwe was recently talking about how much she’s improved her defense, so it should be fun to see how she does guarding Smith.
The second thing Cal needs to do in order to win this game is take good care of the basketball and limit bad possessions. Tara VanDerveer’s teams always play smart, disciplined basketball that really makes opponents pay for every bad possession and turnover. If Cal can be the team that wins the turnover battle while also having very few bad possessions, they’ll give themselves a chance to steal this game. If Cal is committing too many careless turnovers, this game won’t even be close.
Third, Cal needs to take advantage of their superior foul shooting. Cal shoots 73.3% from the foul line on 18.5 attempts per game while Stanford shoots 71.3% on 15.9 attempts per game. Stanford’s opponents shoot 36.3% from the field and 34.2% from 3-point range, so it’s really tough to get baskets on them from the field. If Cal can get to the foul line with regularity, that will really help them overcome Stanford’s stellar defense. If Cal isn’t getting to the line, we’re probably looking at a very decisive victory for Stanford.