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New-look Cal opens with two challenging mid-major road games, Oregon meets Team USA

In a busy weekend in the Pac-12, the Cal Bears take on Harvard and UConn — two teams they lost to at home last season — while Oregon prepares for Team USA.

CU vs Cal Women’s Basketball
Jaelyn Brown is Cal’s sole returning starter from 2018-19.
Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Media News Group/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

After losing their coach to the NBA and their best player ever to the WNBA, the Cal Bears find themselves having to open 2019-20 with two tricky rematches from last season.

Last December, in two straight home games, the Bears had a spirited effort against the visiting and then-No. 1 UConn Huskies fall short en route to a 76-66 loss. Eight days later, the Bears welcomed the Harvard Crimson to Berkeley, where a final comeback effort failed and they lost again, 85-79.

Once again, they’re playing the Crimson and the now-No. 5 Huskies back-to-back this weekend, this time with just a travel day between them. Harvard was picked to finish third in the Ivy League (as it usually does), while UConn is, naturally, picked to win the American in its final season with the conference.

So much is the same this season — and still, so much has changed.

The Bears aren’t a favorite in the Pac-12 this season by any stretch — the media picked them to finish 10th, while the coaches tabbed them 11th. Last season, despite the brilliance of Kristine Anigwe’s record-breaking senior season, they finished in the middle of the pack.

But new head coach Charmin Smith’s team still has talent to choose from — and this she knows, having been a Cal assistant for 12 years. With four starters having moved on (three to graduation, one to transfer), senior Jaelyn Brown is now the Bears’ focal point. Her consistent leadership showed in their two exhibition games against Beijing Normal and Vanguard, as she averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds.

Around Brown, though, some new talent began to emerge. Junior Alayshia Styles, who’s not known for being a shooter, scored 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting across both games. Among the four freshmen, Leilani McIntosh had a team-high 19 points against Beijing Normal, while Evelien Lutje Schipholt showed off the Bears’ depth by averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in the exhibition games.

Redshirt seniors Sara Anastasieska and Chen Yue, as well as Styles, Brown and McIntosh, started both games.

“We have a lot of work to do, but I’m very pleased with the effort and where we are thus far as we get ready to start the season,” Smith said after the Vanguard game.

Here’s how to follow both Cal games this weekend:

Game information

California Golden Bears vs. Harvard Crimson

When: Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Lavietes Pavilion, Cambridge, MA

How to watch: ESPN+

California Golden Bears vs. No. 5 UConn Huskies

When: Sunday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT

How to watch: SNY

Around the Pac-12

  • No. 1 Oregon takes on Team USA on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Oregon), then opens its season against Northeastern on Monday, Nov. 11. Of the Team USA matchup, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu said, “I’m 100 percent going to be starstruck. Especially when players like Diana Taurasi come onto the floor. I’m just going to be excited that I can share the same floor with them.”
  • The Beavers of No. 7 Oregon State are taking part in the Preseason WNIT, which for them begins by hosting UC Irvine on Saturday.
  • Nine Pac-12 players landed on the Wade Trophy, Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy preseason watch lists: Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally (Oregon), Mikayla Pivec and Destiny Slocum (Oregon State), DiJonai Carrington and Kiana Williams (Stanford), Aari McDonald (Arizona) and Michaela Onyenwere (UCLA). Erin Boley (Oregon) and Japreece Dean (UCLA) were also on the Naismith Trophy watch list. Ionescu is the defending Wade Trophy and Wooden Award winner.
  • The unofficial annual Pac-12 vs. WCC rivalry is underway! Washington State beat Pepperdine in their Nov. 5 opener, and tonight, Arizona takes on Santa Clara. Then, on Saturday, it’s Washington State vs. BYU, No. 11 UCLA vs. Loyola Marymount and No. 3 Stanford vs. San Francisco.
  • While the other Pac-12 teams have yet to lose, Utah lost both of its first two games on the road. The Utes have a chance to turn things around in their home opener against South Dakota next Saturday, Nov. 16.
  • USC and Colorado are the first Pac-12 teams to face power conference opponents this season: The Women of Troy face Virginia on Saturday, while the Buffaloes host Wisconsin on Thursday.

Full Pac-12 game schedule and viewing information