Posted on November 27, 2019
On the Court
The California Golden Bears are one of those teams who refuse to be overlooked or dismissed. Cal lost so much after last season that it was understandable when they were relegated to bottom of the Conference by both media and coaches in the preseason polls.
First-year head coach Charmin Smith and her players didn’t let that bother them. Smith talked about how her team would surprise people, but that could be easily dismissed as coach-speak. It’s something most coaches say when they find themselves projected to finish next-to-last in their league.
It turns out Smith wasn’t just throwing out clichés, though. Her players have backed up their leader’s words on the court.
The first evidence that some were selling the Golden Bears short came on Nov. 10, when they took to the road to face UConn.
The Huskies don’t just win in Storrs, Conn. They destroy teams—even ranked teams. The Golden Bears didn’t pay attention to that, losing by just 11 points behind 25 points from Sara Anastasieska.
Yes, it was a double-digit defeat, but UConn won by an average of 36.6 points per game at home last season in what is typical fashion for them. It was a “good loss” for California. But moral victories only go so far. The Golden Bears wanted more.
They got that opportunity on Nov. 24 when then-No. 20 Arkansas came to Berkeley. Cal didn’t get a moral victory this time. They got the kind that counts.
The Golden Bears defeated the Razorbacks 84-80 with seniors Jaelyn Brown and CJ West along with freshman Evelien Lutje Schipholt leading the way.
Brown had a monster game, contributing career highs in both points (30) and rebounds (12). She went 11-for-20 from the floor and threw in a couple of blocks for good measure. It was enough not just for the win, but also for the honor of espnW National Player of the Week.
West showed that she will be a threat this year. The senior center added 14 points and 12 rebounds against the Razorbacks. Lutje Schipholt stepped up, as well. The 6-foot-2 forward from the Netherlands got a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The rest of the Pac-12 have been put on notice that the Golden Bears aren’t ready to be the doormat of the league this season. Cal’s two wins helped the league to a 16-1 overall record for the week.
In the Rankings
Another team that refuses to let the national media ignore them is Arizona. The Wildcats beat then-No. 22 Texas in the second week of the regular season, but still found themselves on the outside of the AP Poll. They responded by defeating their next two opponents by 35 points apiece to move to 6-0 for the first time since 1999.
Like the coaches the week before, the media could no longer leave them out—especially after the Golden Bears helped by knocking off Arkansas. Arizona debuted as No. 24 in the AP poll, appearing in the media’s rankings for the first time since December 2004. The USA Today/WBCA Poll moved the Wildcats up to No. 22.
That put five teams in both polls once again. Oregon remained atop both rankings and Stanford sat at No. 3. Oregon State (7/5) and UCLA (11/11) rounded out the group. The Golden Bears impressed a few voters, as well, picking up votes in the AP poll after their top-20 win. Along with Arizona State, they gave the league two teams receiving votes in the media poll. ASU also received votes from the coaches.
Players of the Week
California’s big win impressed the local media, too. Both the Freshman of the Week and the Player of the Week were Golden Bears.
Brown took the first Player of the Week honor of her career. The deciding factor was her performance against the Razorbacks. On that night, she became one of just four Golden Bears in the past 20 seasons to score at least 30 and grab at least 12 boards.
That wasn’t her only recommendation, though. In addition to the 30-point display on Sunday, Brown had a strong game against San Diego State on Nov. 21, with 18 points on 61.5 percent shooting. She narrowly missed a double-double by grabbing nine rebounds against the Aztecs. Her five assists were offset by only one turnover, and she added a steal on the defensive end. For the week, she averaged 24 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Lutje Schipholt used her first career double-double to garner her first Freshman of the Week honor. Like her teammate, she averaged a double-double over two games last week. Lutje Schipholt contributed nine points and 11 rebounds against San Diego State to go with her 11 points and 10 rebounds against Arkansas. Her performance against the Aztecs included seven offensive boards.
Washington State vs Everyone
When: Friday, Nov. 28 at 3:45 p.m. PT/4:45 p.m. MT; Saturday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT; Sunday, Nov. 30 at 3:45 p.m. PT/4:45 p.m. MT
Washington State will face off against three opponents. The lowest ranked of those teams will be No. 17 Indiana.
When coach Kamie Ethridge said she lost her mind a little bit with the schedule, she wasn’t kidding. In addition to the Hoosiers, the Cougs will face the defending national champion and second-ranked Baylor Lady Bears along with the No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks.
Washington State will kick things off against Baylor on Friday afternoon. They get a little respite on Saturday when they face the Hoosiers, then wrap things up with the Gamecocks on Sunday.
The Cougars will definitely be ready to face the difficult road in the Pac-12 after they are done in St. Thomas, but at least they get a trip to the beach while Pullman is freezing. Maybe they can shock the world, too.
No. 1 Oregon (4-0) vs No. 8 Louisville (5-0)
When: Sunday, Nov. 30 at 12:15 p.m. PT/1:15 p.m. MT
It’s possible to pick an Oregon game as a must-watch every week. Last week, they flew across the country to defeat No. 17 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
It was a routine 81-64 victory in the end, but the Orange were able to keep things close in three of the four quarters. Against the Ducks, though, it’s almost a guarantee that there will be one bad quarter for their opponent.
This week, things get a little more interesting. Oregon will also take the trip to the Virgin Islands for the three-game Paradise Jam over Thanksgiving. The opening courses will be Oklahoma State and UT Arlington on Friday and Saturday, but everyone will be waiting for the main dish: Ducks vs. Cardinals on Sunday.
Oregon has already been tested. Not only have they beaten a top-20 team on the road, but earlier this month they became the only college team to beat Team USA in the past 20 years. The Ducks are bursting at the seams with talent that should carry them to three more victories in St. Thomas.
It’s dangerous to dismiss Louisville, though. The Cardinals are a perfect 5-0 this season. They haven’t lost double-digit games since the 2011-12 season when they finished 23-10.
But the Cardinals haven’t been tested this season. They also haven’t left the KFC Yum! Center so far. It will be a rather sudden step up in competition for coach Jeff Walz and his team when they face the Ducks.
Louisville will also likely be the team that watches Sabrina Ionescu set the all-time assists record for the Pac-12. The Oregon star needs just two assists to surpass the record of 831 set by Jordin Canada of UCLA.
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