Pac-12 Feature: Cal women's basketball on a different course from 2016

On the surface, what’s happening with the Cal Bears over these first few weeks of the Pac-12 season might look similar to the path the Bears were on last year. A great non-conference season followed by a major tumble in Pac-12 play.

Cal went 12-0 in the non-conference stretch to open the season, but the Bears sit at a disappointing 2-4 three weeks into the Pac-12 schedule.

Yet, Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb insists there is no comparison.

“It’s absolutely nothing like last year,” Gottlieb said. “We have better leaders, the coaches and the players are in it together, versus last year when the coaches were dragging people where they need to go.

“Last year, we didn’t win one road game in the entire conference season, this year we have two road wins. This is a different experience for us. We are a more resilient team.”

Three of Cal’s four losses have come in games decided by one-possession games into the final moments, a double-overtime loss at Arizona State, a tough home loss against Oregon on a buzzer-beating shot, and a road loss at Utah in which Cal came back from a 12-point deficit to get within a point with 1:47 to go.

“We’re fine,” Gottlieb said. “In order to get to the elite, we need to win games we are supposed to win and battle with the people at the top of the conference. In the three games we lost, I don’t think we played particularly well. It sucks to be 2-4, but we had a chance to win three of those games. We are right there.”

Gottlieb said the Bears need to be prepared to play with a sense of urgency from beginning to end, starting with Friday’s rematch against Arizona State at Haas Pavilion.

“You can’t have half your stuff and expect to win in this league,” Gottlieb said. “Being at full urgency, at full get-it-done mode is what this conference requires.”

The Bears, their coach said, need more consistent inside-outside offensive production. They need somebody to step up besides sophomore post Kristine Anigwe – who is averaging 23.6 points and 10.0 rebounds a game - and be a consistent scoring threat.

Courtney Range is the only other Cal scorer in double figures at 12.3 points a game. But the Bears rank among the top teams in the conference in scoring at 75.4 points a game, but have dropped to 64.3 points a game in Pac-12 play.

“Kristine is consistently giving us what we need from her,” Gottlieb said. “We need second and third options. We need to be better in transition to take the pressure off her.”

Cal will play seven of their next nine games at home.

“We don’t expect to split weekends and we won’t be satisfied with that,” Gottlieb said. “We need to win more than we lose and if we get into that rhythm, we will be able to climb up into that top four in the standings, which is where we think we should be.”

Milestone Update
Washington’s superstar guard Kelsey Plum earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for the second week in a row as she moves closer to the NCAA’s all-time scoring record.

Plum is already the 12th player in NCAA history to reach 3,000 points for her career and the first ever in the history of Pac-12 basketball (men’s or women’s) to do it.

Plum moved into seventh place in NCAA history and now has 3,041 points. She needs 352 points to catch Jackie Stiles for the all-time career scoring record in Division I women’s basketball history. She would need to average just over 27 points a game for the remainder of the conference schedule to get there.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer is five wins away from 1,000 wins in her career. The only Division I coaches in college basketball history with 1,000 wins are Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. The earliest it could happen would be February 3 at home against USC. But the Cardinal need to face Arizona State and Washington between now and then.

Bad news for the Cougs
Washington State is reeling from the news this week that their stellar freshman, Chanelle Molina sustained a season-ending ACL injury last weekend against Arizona State. Molina was coming off back-to-back Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards, and was emerging as a leader for a WSU squad that was still absorbing season-ending injuries to two of its top players, Borislava Hristova and Louise Brown.

“Having three starters out stinks,” said Cougars coach June Daugherty. “Now we just have to push the young ones into action.”

Sun Devils Moos on the mend
ASU senior guard Kelsey Moos has missed the last four games with a torn plantar fascia in her foot.

Moos will get her cast off this week and move to a boot. Sun Devils coach Charli Turner Thorne said she hopes Moos will be back on the floor, perhaps in early February.

“We decided to cast her to immobilize it totally and we are doing everything we can to get her back out there,” Turner Thorne said. “She will start her rehab and we will go from there. Kelsey has never been healthy in March. It’s always been something. And as hard as it is for her to be out right now, we just want to get her back out there. I would love that for her.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse.

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