Another Eyewitness Report from Hawaii -
12-03-2011, 09:35 AM
Just got back from Hawaii. SanseiBear has already done a great job describing the games, but here are some more eyewitness details.
TEXAS: Going into the tournament, Texas had the most talent but Cal and especially Virginia were much more consistent so it was a crapshoot as to who would play the best. But right from first pregame drills and shootaround, Texas looked focused and sharp while Cal and Virginia looked a bit lethargic. The start of the opener vs. Virginia set the tone for Texas' entire tournament, with Fussell (a good shooter but who came in 1 of 16 3FG) coming out of her slump and then others joining in the outside shooting party.
VIRGINIA: The Cavs were coming off the big win over Tennessee but surprisingly didn't look very confident during the first pregame. With Texas getting off to a hot shooting start and Virginia totally frustrated and handcuffed by some hideously lopsided officiating, the body language of the Cavs began to revert back to their discouraged look during the end of the Debbie Ryan days. They never really recovered from the nightmare start but give them credit for waking up a bit vs. Hawaii and then competing well despite being physically overmatched by Cal.
CAL-HAWAII: This was a sloppy game best left undiscussed. Former Cal signee Shawna-Lei Kuehu was rusty coming off another knee issue (described as a bruise but which caused her to miss 3 games). But she looked much better against Virginia despite some ugly stats and you could see the unique power of Shawna's offensive game, strong enough and savvy enough to easily shield off smaller guards but with a variety of moves to either drive around or post up against bigger 3's and 4's. Subtract the second ACL and other knee issues that she's had since signing with Cal and you can see why we recruited her - she must have looked unstoppable back then.
CAL-TEXAS: With Texas' record of inconsistency under Goestenkors, I was hoping they would come out flat but they came out nearly as sharp as in their Virginia blowout. That tells you how well Cal was playing in order to start out with a 21-7 lead. Unfortunately Texas kept hitting key outside shots to keep Cal from pulling away either then or later when we were up 45-35.
Brittany played the same aggressive defense which has gotten her into foul trouble before, and Texas and the refs quickly picked up on that. The Horns started flopping and the refs kept whistling, but this was NOT an officiating issue. It was Brittany herself who didn't read the situation and became more and more of a non-factor as she got deeper into foul trouble. She fouled out and with Eliza not playing as well as she did at the start of the game, and with Sherbert being constantly covered after hitting some early 3FG's, our late game offense reverted back to the same uninspired scheme as last year. Texas and everyone else knew Layshia would inhale the ball during the last few possessions and unfortunately her shots didn't drop.
I've mentioned how UCSB blew some late-game leads while Lindsay looked on a bit passively, but that was NOT the case here. Yes we blew the lead but the players were not anxious or back on their heels, and Lindsay and Daron were really active on the sidelines. Everyone fought the way you'd want them to, but they just couldn't hold on.
CAL-VIRGINIA: Another sloppy game best left with fewer details. Re: Joanne Boyle's interaction with her former team, keep in mind that everyone had already mingled earlier at the Thanksgiving Day banquet, and by day 3 both Cal and Virginia were more focused on bouncing back from the irritating Texas games rather than the reunion or grudge aspects of this matchup. So there was no more tension or emotions than you would see in any other game.
As SanseiBear already mentioned, Joanne had big hugs for the entire Cal staff during the pregame handshakes, including a moment where trainer Ann Caslin first pushed Joanne away then gave her a big hug after both had a good laugh. During the postgame handshakes, Joanne gave a big hug to every Cal player and each player responded in kind. There was no tension or flinching. If you believe the rumors that a couple of these Cal players were going to transfer if Joanne had stayed, it wasn't possible to spot who those players were and there was absolutely no outward appearance of bad feelings.
LINEUP: Mikayla's unfortunate fade from the starting rotation has already been noted, and I noticed a few other trends that may not necessarily serve Cal well during conference play. But let's see how the rotation plays out during the rest of the nonconference, especially in the competitive games vs. Ohio State and maybe UNLV.
SHERBERT'S DEFENSE: I've described Lindsay Sherbert as an occasional defensive liability, but I was pleased at how much more intensity she had on defense during the Hawaii tournament. She had to cover Texas' top scorer Fussell and then some even quicker players after some switches but she did a pretty good job. Add in the better 3FG shooting despite her elbow still being wrapped, and this could be a good omen for the rest of Sherbert's season.
OUTLOOK: I mentioned before that Cal needed to be 4-2 at this point in the season so we've met that goal. We actually exceeded it in that the team avoided bad losses and genuinely believes that they should be undefeated. Texas can easily revert to their traditional inconsistency but hopefully will instead use Hawaii as a springboard to a solid season, which will make our 1-point loss look OK. As of today we are #23 in the Sagarin Predictor and as of Friday we were #30 in the RPI, so we are definitely playing like an NCAA tournament at-large selection.