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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

Kristine Anigwe’s 50-point game against Sacramento State was pretty routine, actually 12/11/2016

Logo_GoldenBear_whtA few years ago, while Cal was headed to the Final Four, coach Lindsey Gottlieb said that Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer — whose Cardinal have owned the region for 1,000 years — was glad that another Pac-12 team was climbing toward elite status.

The rising tide floated all boats, because look at the Pac-12 today: Teams in the Pac-12 Conference are a combined 86-13. Colorado was #11 in the preseason poll, but the Buffaloes are 9-0 and #18 in the country. Following Cal’s 97-73 win over Sacramento State Friday, the Golden Bears are 8-0, their best start in program history. (Like Cal, Utah was predicted to place in the middle of the dozen, and the Utes are 9-0 after downing interstate rival Brigham Young 77-60 Saturday. Utah shouldn’t be in the Pac-12, but OK since it means coach Lynne Roberts and her Pacific captain Kendall Rodriguez have to visit the Bay Area at least once.)

No matter what Cal does against Lehigh Sunday, sophomore forward Kristine Anigwe is probably the conference player of the week, given her team record 50 points plus 14 rebounds against Sacramento State.

It was an impressively efficient performance — 50 points on 19-of-23 shooting in 24 minutes played — but it really was not a spectacular game. Remember last month when Anigwe had 29 and 19 in two games at the Cal Classic, and I said it was a pretty bad weekend? That was because she’s capable of 50 points in 24 minutes.

The conditions were right for Anigwe’s 50 — Cal was moving the ball (29 assists on 40 field goals vs. the Hornets), and Sacramento State is vulnerable against agile forwards. The Hornets spread the floor on offense because they’re aiming for a record number of threes every night, and they spread themselves defensively to give themselves a jump on a fast break — though that leaves them helpless against a forward who can split the seams and get behind the defense. Pacific’s Kendall Kenyon — the swiftest and most mobile forward I’ve ever seen — had 28 points and 21 rebounds against Sacramento State, but the Hornets’ strategy was fruitful, and the Hornets knocked the Tigers out of the NIT.

Anigwe had 60 points in sight. Her four missed field goals could’ve bounced differently, and she said it herself: “I missed too many free throws”. A couple of additional field goals plus an improvement on 12-of-19 from the free throw line would have totaled 60 — *that* I might’ve termed spectacular. Coach Gottlieb said again that Anigwe “makes the crazy look ordinary” and that each of her field goals came within the flow of the offense.

I tweeted during the second half — while Anigwe was a few points shy of Alexis Gray-Lawson’s Cal record 47 — that she might break the record, but the play I’d remember would be her 50-foot outlet pass to start a Anigwe-to-Mo Mosley-to-MiCole Cayton fast break. Cayton had to finish that play crossing under the basket, which made it highlight reel material. That play won’t even show in Anigwe’s boxscore totals, but a reporter at the press conference said it was the first time Anigwe looked happy all night. “[Mosley] can run,” Anigwe said. “I knew if I pass it ahead of her, she’s gonna get the ball.” The sophomore Mosley did, then found freshman Cayton flying from the other wing.

50 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist that would appear in a hockey boxscore: “There’s not a more complete post player in the country,” said Gottlieb.

East Bay basketball fans are suddenly spoiled — they’ve grown accustomed to the spectacular. When Curry or Thompson have remarkable games, they’re raining threes from everywhere; their defenders have to move out to meet them, and the Splash Brothers step further out. That’s spectacular — what Anigwe did was dependable and efficient (and expected — considering what our Kendall did on a good night for the Hornets, I thought an easy 30 was in store for Anigwe on a good night for the Golden Bears).

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In the Cal Classic final, Cal looked very together 11/27/2016

Logo_GoldenBear_whtIn the Cal Classic final against Duquesne, Cal got 51 points and 23 rebounds from three all-tournament forwards, and beat the Dukes 86-66.

Cal senior forward Courtney Range — they might list her as a “guard-forward”, which doesn’t describe Range as well as it describes most 2/3/4s — was the most valuable player in more than than one way. She’s taken on the senior responsibility at press conferences — she’s the union representative for 12 Cal students, which requires poise and fluency. Range also gathered 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in two games.

Cal’s public address man calls the occasional Range trey with: “Long range three”. It’s a clever call, well used sparingly.

Sophomore Kristine Anigwe recorded 29 and 19, and I bet you could find people who’d say she had a bad weekend. Coach Gottlieb said Anigwe was making the extraordinary look ordinary, so substitute “ordinary” for “bad”. Anigwe made 29 and 19 look ordinary and somewhat disappointing.

Junior Penina Davidson is likes James Worthy in this regard: Worthy was the quietly dominant one in the Big Three dynamic of those great Lakers teams.

Ballhandling guard Asha Thomas made one turnover in the Cal Classic. She reminded me of Coach Mary Hegarty, who used to say she was just giving the ball to Denise Curry at UCLA, in an ironic bit of self-deprecation and unselfishness.

Junior guard Mikayla Cowling had 19 points and 14 assists. Those numbers made me think: “Huh? Really?”, because I feel like I wasn’t paying attention.

So this is the best thing I can say about the Golden Bears at their home tournament: Their guards were quietly spectacular. This coincides with what Coach Gottlieb said about her team: “We’ve got so many pieces to put together, and today you saw all of them.”

The worst thing I can say about the Golden Bears is to recite the old principle that the home team naturally invites three teams in the “stretch us hard but likely not beat us, especially when we play together” range. I hope the team takes that in a tongue-in-cheek, challenging way.

About the all-Cal Classic players from visiting teams:

USF senior guard Rachel Howard earned it. USF is a rocky program, rebuilding everywhere. I liked their senior guard Raushan Gultekin — she’s noticeable for diving under bigger players, and getting to the ball first. Then while I think to write that down, she’s chasing another loose ball.

Duquesne sophomore guard Chassidy Omogrosso was deserving. Duquesne is a striking family organization — they actually read each others’ retweets. Good basketball team, too.

Western Carolina junior forward Sherae Bonner had 15 points and 26 rebounds. Bonner had the Catamounts’ only double-double — none of her teammates made two doubles, which suggests their team’s unevenness.

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Cal is 4-0 on the eve of their Cal Classic 11/24/2016

Pacific,Logo_GoldenBear_wht California, and St. Mary’s are all hosting four-teams-for-two-days tournaments this Thanksgiving weekend. Each of those schools is among my favorite basketball venues, and as it happens, each tournament invited an additional team on my beat: Santa Clara is at Pacific, San Francisco is at Cal, and Utah is at St. Mary’s.

It’s a predicament, but there is one heavily-weighted tiebreaker in favor of Berkeley: Haas Pavilion is a six-block walk from the BART station downtown, while McKeon Pavilion in Moraga and Spanos Center in Stockton make for treacherous driving conditions even under the best weather.

So I shan’t see Coach Lynne Roberts and her Utah Utes, which is disappointing, because I think Roberts has never looked happier than she does now during her second season in Salt Lake City. Her first four seasons at Pacific were very rough, but she built a Big West Conference champion from scraps, for which she’s rewarded by promotion to the powerful Pac-12.

Utah is 8th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, which will suit a Roberts group just fine — her teams aren’t happy unless they’re underdogs. When her 2013 Pacific team was crushing opponents, even I was feeling a bit like “well, yeah, but this would be more fun if it were unexpected”.

Cal is predicted to finish in the middle of the Pac-12, a reasonable jump to expect from last season’s 4-14 shock, but a long, long way from 2013’s 16-1 Final Four.

I’ve seen the undefeated Golden Bears three times. I thought they looked disarrayed on opening night at St. Mary’s — Cal’s defense is at its best when it is swarming and stretching and coercing turnovers, but it seemed to me that when the Gaels lost the handle on the ball, there just happened to be a Bear nearby to pick it up and run. You can stick to “luck is the residue of good design”, but sometimes perhaps it’s just bouncing the right way.

They didn’t look so sharp three nights later at home against Santa Clara, either — until the second half, when they routinely capitalized on greater athleticism, lobbing the ball toward the basket with an expectation that a Golden Bear would come down with it. Cal scored 40 points in the paint, and won the second half by 18 — final 73-58.

On 11/20 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield, the Bears took advantage of the Roadrunners’ aim to open the floor end-to-end. Cal assisted on 23 of 34 field goals, while stifling every Roadrunner but one — CSUB forward Aja Williams scored 35 of their 63 points against 86 for the host Bears.

It was the second straight 20-plus-10 game for sophomore forward Kristine Anigwe. “She makes some extraordinary things look ordinary,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We’ve raised our expectations of her, which is pretty remarkable — we expect 20 and 10 from her, but now we’re asking her for more.”

The thing Cal really did right during those three games was improve noticeably. They were sloppy at St. Mary’s, better in the second half vs. Santa Clara, and getting it well together while routing Bakersfield. “We’re trying to get a little better with each game,” said Gottlieb, who cited her team’s defense against CSUB and particularly their shot selection: “We show them that this is what the great teams — Golden State and San Antonio — do: giving up good shots to get great shots.”

Next for Cal is the first round of the Cal Classic on Friday vs. San Francisco. The Dons were the hugely-surprising winners of the West Coast Conference tournament last March, going in as the #6 seed before beating #3, #2, and #1 to earn the berth in the NCAA tournament. Then coach Jennifer Azzi dropped a bomb, resigning seven weeks before the start of the 2017 season, replaced by Molly Goodenbour (who probably hadn’t furnished her new office at Cal State Hayward before leaving for USF) — I’m pleased; as much as I liked Coach Azzi, Coach Goodenbour has been a good story wherever she goes.

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