As noted by Viet Nguyen of BearInsider.com, 6’4″ Kansas post Carolyn Davis was not as big a factor as she could have been despite scoring 16 points on 6-for-6 shooting.
Henrickson had a different perspective, thinking that her team did not look for Davis enough. “I thought that Carolyn really worked to try and get the ball. I thought we did not throw it to her enough. If I had the ball, I would have thrown it to her. I’ll probably throw up when I watch it, how many times we missed her.”
A closer look at Davis’ performance reveals the source of Kansas coach Bonnie Hendrickson’s frustration with the Jayhawks’ inability to get the ball in the hands of their leading scorer.
Half of Davis’ shots came in the first six minutes of the game, one on a putback off an offensive rebound and another off a short jumper. In the second half, Davis only had one field goal attempt in addition to a couple of trips to the free throw line.
During the post game press conference, Hendrickson explained two parts of that story: first, the guards were indeed missing opportunities to throw the ball into the post. But second, Cal’s perimeter defenders are long and quick enough to bother even the most proficient passers with their pressure and Kansas’ wings didn’t respond as well as Hendrickson might have hoped; Jayhawks guard Monica Engelman’s six turnovers are one concrete sign of the impact of the Golden Bears’ pressure.
Another aspect of Cal’s defensive strategy was to double team Davis when she caught the ball to force it out of her hands, making someone else a threat. And that was arguably extremely successful: by doubling Davis and denying the nearest pass, Cal limited Davis’ ability to set up other players for easy shots. With Cal taking Davis out of the game, Kansas retreated to perimeter and shot 1-for-8 from the 3-point line in the second half before Angel Goodrich got hot late in the game and hit a pair of threes to help the team finish 3-for-11 in the final 20 minutes.
To Kansas’ credit, they did find other people to score while Davis’ touches were limited and star point guard Angel Goodrich was generally contained. Post Chelsea Gardner came off the bench and gave them a strong performance in the second half. Engelman hit a couple of big shots early in the second half. The Jayhawks ultimately shot 50% for the game, which any team would love to shoot on the road and certainly makes the game look like a poor defensive performance for Cal statistically as mentioned by Nick of California Golden Blogs.
But the bottom line is that Cal did what any good defensive game plan aims for: they tried to take away their opponent’s strengths and forced them to find points in ways they may not be most comfortable with. Kansas clearly managed to hurt Cal in other ways while their stars were limited, a credit to their quality as a team, but it’s simultaneously fair to say that Cal’s defensive game plan was pretty solid.
For more on this game, check out our Cal-Kansas storystream.