The California Golden Bears women’s basketball team squares off against the Louisville Cardinals today in the Final Four of the NCAA playoffs. California (32 – 3) is the only team representing the west coast, as Louisville (28 – 8) and the other two Final Four participants (Connecticut and Notre Dame) are members of the Big East Conference.
Louisville dismantled Middle Tennessee State (74 – 49), defeated Purdue (76 – 63), upset Baylor (82 – 81), and turned back Tennessee (86 – 78) to reach the Final Four in New Orleans. Cal’s path to the Final Four included wins over Fresno State (90 – 76), South Florida (82 – 78, OT), LSU 73 – 63, and Georgia (65 – 62, OT).
Consensus All-PAC-12 selection Layshia Clarendon leads Cal in scoring (16.4 points per game), and handed out 100 assists. Brittany Boyd chips in 12.6 ppg, pulls down 5.5 rebounds per game, and leads Cal with 150 assists. Gennifer Brandon scores 12.3 ppg and grabs 11.2 rpg. Talia Caldwell scores at a 9.1 ppg clip, and garners 7.2 rpg.
Cal shoots 42.2 percent from the field, 30.3 percent behind the 3-point line, and 61.4 percent from the free thrown line. Cal outscores opponents 72.3 ppg to 58.3 ppg. Cal also outrebounds opponents 44.8 rpg to 33.5 rpg.
Louisville boasts a balanced attack of Shoni Schimmel (14.4 ppg), Sara Hammond (10.7 ppg), Antonita Slaughter (9.9 ppg), Monique Reid (9.6 ppg), and Bria Smith (9.4 ppg). Hammond (6.5 rpg) and Slaughter (5.0 rpg) lead the Cardinals in rebounding. while Schimmel (127 assists) and Jude Schimmel (105 assists) are the leading playmakers.
Louisville shoots 44.2 percent from the field, 32.4 percent behind the 3-point line, and 69.9 percent from the free thrown line. Louisville outscores opponents 72.3 ppg to 57.7 ppg. Louisville also outrebounds opponents 37.9 rpg to 35.0 rpg.
Cal imposes their athleticism to dominate the boards on both ends of the court, while using a swarming defense to create turnovers and ignite their fastbreak offense. Cal has the edge in height in the backcourt, but they are also very athletic at all positions. Louisville also likes to push the tempo, and was able to take down powerhouses Baylor and Tennessee with prolific 3-point shooting and feisty work on the boards.
Cal should be able to advance if their defense can generate transition buckets, and if Clarendon can create scoring opportunities for herself and teammates. If Cal can induce Louisville into turnovers with their pressure defense, the Golden Bears should be playing for the national championship on Tuesday.
Tip off is 3:36 PM Pacific time in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.