It was supposed to be a promising year for the California Golden Bears. After scoring some upset wins over top-25 teams and getting some other near misses last season, they were bringing in the No. 7 class in the country. The Arizona Wildcats knew how dangerous they could be after Cal upset them on senior day last year.
But everything fell apart for the Bears.
They had injuries to multiple key returners. Seven COVID-19 cancellations due to issues either within their own or their opponents’ programs. A bench so short that injuries forced them to cancel last week’s games due to too few players. Even their Twitter account was suspended for unknown reasons last week.
“I‘m proud of also how Charmin (Smith) has handled everything,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said about her counterpart at Cal. “We’ve been teammates on a couple different pro teams, so I know her. She’s driven. She’s competitive. She has pride. So I think if she would have been someone else or in a different conference, I think she would have opted out of the season. But she didn’t. She stuck it out.”
Arizona knows that they can’t overlook Cal, even though the Bears are 0-13 overall and 0-10 in conference play. That game last year is still with them.
“It scares me because of what happened last year,” Barnes said. “They only had I think one win when they played us, maybe two...and look what happened.”
After beating Stanford for their first win over a top-5 program in program history, the Wildcats came out flat against the Bears last February. Cal came in just 2-15 in conference play and left 3-15.
Arizona would get revenge in the Pac-12 tournament, but they still sent Dominique McBryde and Tee Tee Starks off on a down note. That couldn’t be rectified.
This year, they're trying to avoid a repeat by keeping their heads straight.
“You can’t take any team lightly,” said junior forward Cate Reese. “Any team can come in and beat you. I mean, we’ve proved that, especially last year on senior night when we lost to Cal. So I think we just need to be able to be consistent and not get too high, not get too low during the game. And just make sure that we’re focusing on the game.”
This year, the problem would be looking past the team in front of them towards a big game on national TV on Monday. The Wildcats are set to face the Cardinal in a game that could determine the regular-season crown and top seed in the Pac-12 tournament. After getting blown out by Stanford in Tucson, they know a major challenge lays in front of them.
Arizona must win out to get that crown. That means this game against Cal is crucial. Monday doesn’t matter if the Wildcats don’t take care of business on Friday.
Arizona defeated Cal 69-33 at McKale Center on Jan. 3, 2021.
How to follow the game
- Date/Time: Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. MST
- Location: Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif.
- TV: Pac-12 Networks (Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Bay Area)
- Radio: Derrick Palmer will have the call on KTUC 1400 AM or online at TuneIn
- Stats: In-game stats are available on Arizona Live Stats
- Twitter: Follow us at @AZDesertSwarm. You can also follow our editor at @RKelapire and our reporter at @KimDoss71 for coverage during the game and throughout the season.