Cal opens season on the road hungry for success, Brittany Boyd channels her hoops idols
No. 15 Cal at Pacific
4 p.m. PT
Alex G. Spanos Center, Stockton, Calif.
Free live stream: TheW.tv
STOCKTON, Calif. – While No. 15 Cal enters the season ranked nine spots below Pac-12 and San Francisco Bay Area rival Stanford, the media put the Golden Bears at the top of the conference’s preseason poll. Led by senior guard Brittany Boyd in the backcourt, Cal is on a quest to return to the Final Four after reaching the pinnacle of the NCAA tournament two years ago.
They start the season on the road, facing mid-major Pacific Sunday afternoon. The Tigers were picked to finish fourth in the West Coast Conference by league coaches. Junior Kendall Kenyon leads the Tigers. She averaged 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds last season. Cal barely survived the previous contest between the two teams in a 68-66 overtime win in Berkeley last December.
Bringing Back the Hunger
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After last season’s defeat at the hands of Baylor in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Cal was angry and frustrated but turned those emotions into hard work over the summer to bolster their chances of advancing further into the postseason come March. The loss was especially hard to take for Cal as the teams were neck and neck for the first half. However, Baylor outscored the other Bears 41-23 after the break for a 75-56 win.
“We have ten young women that are hungry and excited,” said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb at the conference’s media day last month. “We are excited to have you see this version of Cal basketball. This (preseason) feels more like two years ago; the girls are more solid on what is expected of them and the work ethic is more consistent.”
After Cal’s 75-52 preseason win over NAIA No. 2 Vanguard at the beginning of this month, Gottlieb reiterated her media day comments.
“The feeling in the locker room after we lost to Baylor was a little bit back to that kind of saltiness and hunger that we had pre-Final Four.”
She also discussed Boyd’s offseason work ethic and maturation after that loss and over the summer.
“As you go through your college career, you have a more of an understanding of the process and what it takes. She has been really amazing this offseason in getting herself in the best physical shape and working on her game so that she can take advantage of every opportunity this senior year.”
She stressed the team’s focus when complimenting the 5-9 floor general.
“No question, she’s on a mission with her teammates to get us back to the heights that we think we’re capable of achieving.”
The changes Gottlieb noticed in Boyd also included an increase in stamina and endurance.
“She doesn’t tire now, she doesn’t slow.” In addition, the coach says Boyd is more capable of managing her speed and, “now she can slow down and speed up and change pace when she wants to.”
Learning From Opponents
Boyd, who is an avid fan of the game of New York Liberty star guard Cappie Pondexter, also relishes comparisons to Tulsa Shock guard and former Baylor star Odyssey Sims.
“I think that’s a very good comparison, just to be compared to one of the best point guards that was in college basketball.”
Sims led the Baylor squad that beat Cal last postseason. However, Boyd has a deep appreciation for Sims’ offensive skills and defensive moves. She even spent time watching tapes of the Shock guard during the summer.
“Playing against her, I learned a lot from her. It was a battle and I appreciate the battle. I like Odyssey’s game a lot. I love how she finishes around the rim and has a consistent three-point shot.”
If Cal wants to prove the media right and advance to the Final Four in Tampa next April, Boyd will have to overcome the wily guards on several other Pac-12 teams including Stanford’s speedy trio of Lili Thompson, Amber Orrange and Briana Roberson.
In the meantime, they have a tough non-conference schedule to manage with Missouri, Kansas and Louisville on the slate. After playing at Pacific, the Bears return home to face Nevada on Tuesday Nov. 18. They take off later in week for a tournament in Hawaii.