The Cal women’s basketball isn’t going to know whether this stretch of games – three highly ranked opponents in the span of 14 days and five games – will end up being a benefit or a bane.
Alexis Gray-Lawson – Cal athletics
The Bears lost to No. 8 Baylor by 20 points at home on Nov. 22, then traveled to Columbus to face No 3 Ohio State last week and lost there by an 83-71 margin. And on Sunday, in the title game of their yearly tournament at Haas Pavilion, Cal will probably get a chance to face off against No. 7 Texas A&M.
“This stretch could hurt us in some ways or it could help us,” Bears coach Joanne Boyle said. “It’s easy to come in (after Ohio State) and say great job, there’s so much improvement from Baylor. But they don’t want me to say that. They want more than what was out there. We have to know that this is going to pay off for us down the road and we are holding on to that.”
Cal is a team dominated by its young talent and adjusting to the changes to an offense no longer reliant on veteran posts Ashley Walker and Devenaei Hampton.
Youth and change – not an easy combination.
“I’ve seen lots of growth,” Boyle said. “I feel like we have tons of potential.”
Indeed, the Bears young post players – in particular DeNesha Stallworth and Gennifer Brandon, have shown themselves to be explosive and aggressive and full of possibility.
It is the experienced backcourt players – the senior trio of Alexis Gray-Lawson, Natasha Vital and Lauren Greif – who are struggling with the new world order.
Gray-Lawson rebounded from offensive struggles against Baylor to put up 25 points. But Greif and Vital have yet to find their offensive rhythm.
“I told Lexi, whatever that is that you find when you play that way, that is what we need from you,” Boyle said. “We are going to put you in a position to score. The ball is going to be in her hands a lot of the game. She had a scorers mentality.”
Greif and Vital are another story for the moment. Vital is averaging 10.0 points a game, but is 1 of 9 from beyond the arc. Greif’s minutes have dropped to 16.6 a game and she is averaging 4.2 points a game, making just seven field goals in five games.
“We need some production from them, we do,” Boyle said. “They have to help us and they know how. They are a little more exposed without Ash and Dev commanding double teams. Our posts are not commanding doubles yet and our guards have to score more on their own.”
Boyle said that senior center Rama N’diaye may be on the way to redshirting.
N’diaye has not been able to develop a consistent practice routine and she continues to heal from her March 2008 knee injury. Boyle said she met with N’diaye on Thursday.
“She wants to be sure that if she steps on the court, that she will be able to play 10-15 games,” Boyle said. “And if she’s not going to be able to do that, she doesn’t want to waste the year. We haven’t been able to put a string of two straight week of practice together yet. I’m fine either way, but I’m not going to push her. We probably have to make some kind of decision by Christmas.”