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Cal Basketball

Cal Beats Westmont 79-62 in Exhibition

November 1, 2018

The 2018-2019 edition of the California Golden Bears gave a glimpse of possibility and promise in a 79-63 exhibition victory over Westmont. 

"It was fun to get started," said Lindsay Gottlieb, starting her eight season as Cal head coach. "I feel good about who this team is and what we can become. We saw some of that on display tonight."


Some impressions:

Kristine Anigwe is ready to go.

The senior post player scored a game-high 25 points. In addition to her usual strong play inside (albeit against an undersized Westmont team)--hitting 12 of 18 shots--Anigwe also showed an continuing expansion of her game. She hit a double-clutch three early in the game, and showed a quick drive to the basket going left. She committed a team-high three turnovers, but also showed the ability to pass out of the double team; she found a flashing CJ West for an easy basket in one memorable play. By my count, she had a least two such passes (although the box score did not credit her with any assists).

Cal has more depth than in recent past.

As expected of an exhibition game, every available Bear played (Sarah Anastasieska and Mi'Cole Cayton did not dress), and Gottlieb used many different combinations on the floor. Cal went with three guards to start the game--Asha Thomas, Kianna Smith, and newcomer Receé Caldwell, alongside Jaelyn Brown and Kristine Anigwe. The first subs were freshman McKenzie Forbes and CJ West, who tagged out Thomas and Caldwell, leaving Cal with five players six foot or taller on the floor.

"I think that we're going to be a team that we can play different line-ups based on how we look and what the other team brings," said Gottlieb. "Natural rotations will emerge, but you're gotta play through and see in game situations. We're going to be a team where I can look down a stats sheet and see spread out numbers."

Cal also has a lot more ball-handlers.  

Thomas and Smith (seven and three assists, respectively) are known quantities. But the addition Caldwell, who often brought the ball up the court and already shows an affinity for that Cal classic--the lob to Anigwe, allowed the Bears more flexibility and to play at a quicker pace.  

"Receé being a vet, I trust her a lot," said sophomore Smith. "I've learned from her, just playing with her in this time."

Caldwell had six assists.

Cal has more outside shooting

Playing a team like Westmont, the Bears were content to dominate in the paint--56 to 18 points. However, even in the small sample--six threes in nine attempts--the Bears look to have have more options from the outside. McKenzie Forbes hit both of her open corner threes, and fellow newcomers Caldwell and frosh Sierra Richey each hit one. 

Asha Thomas, who hit 62 treys last season, did not even need to attempt one from outside.

Newcomers McKenzie Forbes and Receé Caldwell will make an immediate impact

Forbes looked comfortable in her first game at Haas. On offense, she moved seamlessless from the perimeter to the paint. It remains to be seen if she will be able to post up Pac-12 competition, and she struggled at times to keep quick guards in front of her. But her shot looks smooth, and she was decisive. Forbes finished with six points in 21 minutes of play.

"Kenzie, she's just a basketball player," said Gottlieb. "She's sort of a jack of all trades. We can put the ball in her hands and let her facilitate like a point guard, or she can play the four. So she's someone that we will be able to plug in. Basketball comes very naturally to her."

Cal's first graduate transfer, Caldwell's experience showed and she impacted every aspect of the game. In addition to her six assists, Caldwell pulled down 5 rebounds, to go along with four points.

"Receé definitely brings a veteran presence," said Gottlieb. "She's been through a lot of battles, just not here. She can play the point, and she really pushes the ball in transition. She can knock down shots. She can make the right pass. We'll rely on her, and with [Smith and Thomas] at times to have three point guards on the floor, and say, 'Pick your poison.' She's not the most explosive athlete we've had here, but her ability to get to her spot and be a perimeter player is unlike anyone we've had and is going to be really important for us."

Improvement shown across the roster

Everyone looked in better shape and looked faster. CJ West, who has subbed for Anigwe the last two seasons but tonight often played alongside the star center, contributed eight points and four rebounds in 13 minutes. 

But there was also growth in how the Bears ran the offense, specifically in how the moved the ball and their bodies. There was not a lot of the confusion and sloppiness that would be expected from an early season contest. As a team, Cal only had 12 turnovers.

"We have more pieces that can do a lot of different things," said Gottlieb. "Score, yes, but also make the right pass. Dribble with both hands, use the ball screen. I know it sounds kind of simple, but it makes a big difference. It helps the flow of the offense that we can be more rhythmic with different people who can do different things."

Defense was a mixed bag

Westmont ate up Cal's zone in the first half. The Warriors, whose roster ranged from 5'1 to 6'1, played to their strengths, hitting seven of their first 12 attempts from beyond the arc. 

"During halftime, we talked about our goal for the second half, and obviously we gave up way too many three-point opportunities," said sophomore Kianna Smith. "We knew that going into the second half, so it was just a matter of a different mentality and locking in. And I feel that we did that."

Cal shut down Westmont in the third, allowing only nine points. It helped that Cal played more player-on-player defense in the second half. The Bears' bigs were particularly effective in hedging and recovering, and the team as a whole moved their feet and played defense without reaching. After the Warriors hit eight threes in the first half, Cal allowed only three (on 12 attempts) in the final two quarters.

"I loved our defensive effort in the second half much better than the first half," said Gottlieb. "I liked our ability to adjust. But we have a lot of things to get better at. My standards for them are really high."


The Bears open their season on Tuesday, November 6, at 7pm, hosting Houston. As it will be Election Day, Cal is offering free admission to all those voted.


Other Notes:

  • Gottlieb on Mi'Cole Cayton's progress recovering from her knee injury: "She's in practice in a limited sense. We're hoping to have her back sooner rather than later."
  • Center Chen Yue will accompany the Cal men's basketball team when they travel to Shanghai to play Yale. Gottlieb explained her decision to approve the trip: "I really believe that my role here is to do as much as I can for these young women and not just what they can do for us--score another basket, make another play, get me further. It's about what we can do for them as well. So those opportunities look different, right? It might be talking to the WNBA GMs about how does Kristine expand her game or how to make [Kianna Smith] into a top guard in the draft. For other people, it might be, how do get them the proper internship? So for Chen, for what she gives to this program, to be able to represent us as an ambassador in China and meet with the CEO of Alibaba and be on panels and do that kind of stuff, is not only going to be good for her, but that's better for us. Because then she's happier and healthier and doing something good for her future. She's a really huge part of this team, and we'll miss her when she's gone, but every single person is happy that she gets the opportunity to go to her home country as part of a Cal delegation."


Discussion from...

Cal Beats Westmont 79-62 in Exhibition

6,231 Views | 6 Replies | Last: 5 yr ago by puget sound cal fan
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Nice write up. Mirrors my views exactly. In the scrimmage, Cayton practiced against the male players which was much rougher than last nights game would have been.

The night started with Anigwe's three and ended with Richey's three. Richey is really feisty and doesn't seem intimidated.
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Great to get the season started. Love the depth.

What is Sara's status? Can we expect to see her on the court by conference season? If not, maybe Sierra Richey gets a look at more playing time. Impressed that she could step on the court and hit a 3 like it was no big deal.
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Sara had a second back operation but Lindsey didn't say if she expected her back this season.

More important is Cayton which would make us 9 deep. Although Richey hit the three, she isn't replacing Mosley which would be 10 deep. And I don't think she is ahead of Olsen either. The key is not the three but what can you give defensively.
puget sound cal fan
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The video clip above shows a good example of player and ball movement, as well as crisp passing in a Cal offensive sequence, all resulting in an easy score. It is certainly a departure from last season's "dump it to Kristine and see what she can do" offense. Nice to see, and a promising development for the Bears.
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puget sound cal fan said:

The video clip above shows a good example of player and ball movement, as well as crisp passing in a Cal offensive sequence, all resulting in an easy score. It is certainly a departure from last season's "dump it to Kristine and see what she can do" offense. Nice to see, and a promising development for the Bears.
It was a dump it to Kristine play. It worked out well because she passed it when she got triple teamed. She also had Caldwell open for the 3. Interestingly Anigwe started from the outside and cut in. West (guarded by their post) was also outside and when her defender (and Caldwell's defender) left to triple team Anigwe, it really opened things up. Anigwe averaged less than 1 assist per game and West rarely has an assist. We are a much better team when the posts pass when they don't have an easy basket.
puget sound cal fan
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Maybe coaching lessons are sinking in? Good to see fundamental basketball principles being executed by the Bears.
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