Cal WBB: Battle of the Bay Preview

For the past two seasons, the Battle of the Bay has featured some of the top post players in college basketball and with Stanford's do-it-all guard Candice Wiggins out of the picture; we can finally start recognizing it.

Cal hosts Stanford Sunday, Jan. 18 at Haas at 3 p.m.

In a game that features two sure-fire All-Americans in Ashley Walker and Jayne Appel on opposite ends of the court, that's as far as the similarities between No. 11 Cal and the No. 9 Cardinal go down low.

"Obviously they're thinking: we've got great post players and they've got great post players. They've got deep post players, and we don't," Bears coach Joanne Boyle said.

Cal's lack of depth in the paint this season has been well documented. Rama N'Diaye is still not in playing shape coming off a knee injury suffered in the opening round of last season's NCAA tournament and, while Devanei Hampton continues to rack up gobs of minutes, it is evident that she has yet to regain the form of seasons past.

Stanford on the other hand can go deep on its bench to get productive minutes, as the Cardinal has been getting a majority of their scoring from inside the paint.

Led by Appel's 14.4 points per game, seven Stanford posts are combining to make up 72 percent of the Cardinal's scoring average.

With that said, how the Bears choose to defend Stanford at the block is going to be a crucial element in deciding who will take the reigns in the early race for the Pac-10 title.

Where Cal has struggled against the Cardinal (or anyone with talent in the post) in the past is when they feel the need to continuously double-down at the block.

In Stanford's 20-point win against the Bears at Maples Pavilion last year, Appel notched seven assists, continuously finding open teammates as the product of Cal's decision to double the 6-foot-4 center.

Similarly, Oklahoma's ability to pass out of low-post double teams and find wings on the perimeter for three-pointers was key in the Sooners' 26-point comeback against the Bears earlier this year.

In that one, Courtney Paris had three assists that led to nine points in the final seven minutes, when Oklahoma went on its late run to usurp the lead.

But against the Cardinal, the Bears could be in trouble either way.

If Boyle decides to rely on Walker and Hampton to defend at the block by themselves, the two All-American candidates could be vulnerable in the fouls department.

"They're going to, I would think, try and take advantage of the fact that we're thin at that position right now. I'm sure they're going to get us in foul trouble and make us go small and all that," Boyle said. "It's just us being smart, and again, changing things up and making us counter what they're trying to do."

If the Bears go small, one would think the circumstances would favor Stanford and its plethora of talent and size down low.

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