Cal’s final exams break came not a moment too soon. The Bears had a very bad night Wednesday against San Jose State, falling 68-66, the Spartans first win in this series since – as one local television station put it, “the Reagan administration.” This is not only a tough loss for Cal, but a damaging one. If the Bears are an NCAA bubble team, and right now, they look a little bit that way, this could be a costly result in terms of RPI and the regard of the committee. San Jose State came into the game with a 1-7 record. The Spartans had already lost to Fullerton, Northridge, Fordham and Denver.
“I’m embarrassed,” Bears coach Joanne Boyle said “I told them the one thing I have always taken pride in is that we’ve always had tough teams. People would knock you on your butt before they’d get an offensive rebound in the last two minutes of a game. You might have four fouls and five turnovers, but you knew when you left, you had played your butt off. We are soft. Physically and mentally, from top to bottom, we were soft tonight. And we have a habit of that. Being soft and not being mentally tough will get you a loss to anybody. That’s where we are right now.”
Even with three losses in five games, it was tough to see this one coming. All three of those previous losses came to Top 10 teams and they played better with each successive game.
But losing what should have been an easy home win against San Jose State is a major stumble.
The Bears are adrift at the moment, in need of some senior leadership. Alexis Gray-Lawson is taking the vast majority of the team’s shots and hitting 35 percent of them. Senior guards Natasha Vital and Lauren Greif are struggling with their roles. The young posts are full of potential, but need more experience.
“I can’t lead them. I am obviously not doing a good job with them in teaching them that being soft is not acceptable at this level. I am not asking them to make baskets. I am not asking them to do anything but play hard and rebound. When someone comes into your gym and scores 32 on you. And the team scores 36 points in the paint and no one is over 6-feet tall, that is a problem. I need to step away and they (the team) need to figure out what they want for their season. Or tell me how to coach them better.”
Stanford comes off its own finals break to begin its marquee stretch of the season, starting with Sunday’s game against DePaul. It’s a matchup that was better on paper a couple of weeks ago.
DePaul was ranked No. 21 when the lost to Wisconsin-Green Bay on Dec. 2. Two games before, the Blue Demons lost senior guard Dierdre Naughton to a season-ending knee injury, a torn ACL in her right knee.
Naughton was averaging 17.5 points a game at the time of her injury, was the team’s leading scorer through the first five games and has scored 1,470 points in her career.
The Cardinal haven’t played since defeating Gonzaga on Nov. 29.
Stanford’s injury updates are as follows: neither guard Mel Murphy (knee) or forward Joslyn Tinkle (foot) are ready to play this weekend.
Murphy could be rea dy for the Pac-10 opener on Jan. 2 against Cal. Tinkle is participating in practice in a limited fashion and no longer wearing her protective boot.
USC had Duke down by 14 points in Durham before falling by a six-point margin on Sunday.
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had this to say about the Women of Troy:
“USC is 10 times better than last year,” McCallie said. “They have really improved. They simply go harder, execute better. They are no-nonsense and they are shooting with a lot of confidence and (Ashley) Corral is playing out of her mind.”
More back-from-break news from UCLA, where the Bruins will travel to UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night before hosting Texas Tech on Friday, Dec. 18. UCLA has not played at home since Nov. 25. The Lady Raiders are 8-1, winners of seven in a row since a nationally televised loss to Tennessee in mid-November.
San Diego State is looking to pull out of its tailspin tonight against Long Beach State. The Aztecs have lost four of five games, including an overtime loss to upstart Pepperdine on Tuesday night.
Coach Beth Burns said Thursday at a media gathering that her team “is not in a great place.”
“We are working really hard to change that and (we did) a lot of study yesterday over things that can (make) us better,” Burns said. “The beauty of this game is we have a practice this afternoon and another opportunity Friday night to get it right.”
Junior guard Coco Davis, a starter, has a bruised knee. The Sacramento native did not play against the Waves and will not play tonight.
“Coco [Davis’s knee] is structurally sound,” Burns said. “She didn’t do anything that is going to require surgery, but it’s swollen and she can’t bend it, and she’s out. It’s not going to change. It just gives us a little bit more time to do things differently.”