All eyes in our Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball community are squarely on the CBU Events Center in Riverside this week. Undefeated California Baptist hosts second place GCU in a series that could determine the WAC regular season champion.
CBU has a solid hold on the top spot in the WAC standings. The Lancers are 18-0 overall and 10-0 in WAC play. GCU is two games back after earning a series split at Utah Valley last weekend.
GCU needs a sweep to keep any hope of a regular season title alive under first-year head coach Molly Miller. Meanwhile, the Lancers under Jarrod Olson (9th year) look to finish off that regular season championship & keep themselves on course for a 22-0 regular season (14-0 WAC). If CBU sweeps the weekend to remain undefeated, the Lancers will lock up the regular season title and No. 1 seed for the WAC Tournament in March.
Friday, February 19 & Saturday, February 20
CBU Events Center (no fans)
WAC Digital Network for both games (https://www.wacdigitalnetwork.com)
2 p.m. PST, 3 p.m. MST both days
California Baptist University Lancers Preview and Notes
Entering this week’s play there are only two undefeated programs and the Lancers, a third year program in D1, are among that group. Finishing off Western Athletic Conference regular season & tournament championships would undoubtedly on top of the ice cream sundae for this program still ineligible for NCAA Tournament play, but able to enter the WNIT. And perhaps finishing undefeated would be the cherry to add just the right flavor.
Entering the week CBU is ranked 8th in collegeinsider.com’s Mid-Major Women’s Basketball top 25 rankings released on Tuesday (a season high). Win #204 for coach Jarrod Olson would give the Lancers no worse than a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular season title and tournament #1 seed.
Players to Watch
Ane Olaeta (Senior PG from Gernika-Lumo, Spain)
YTD>>11.8 PPG on 43.1% FG shooting (35.4% from 3), 4.7 RPG, 8.1 APG & 2.2 SPG
*Unanimous selection as Preseason WAC Player of the Year by both coaches and media.
*Current WAC Ticketstarter Player of the Week after averaging 11.5 PPG & 12 APG in a road sweep at UTRGV.
*National assists leader in NCAA D1 at 138, five ahead of 2nd place & eighteen ahead of third. Also leads the country in assists per contest at 8.1 (0.4 in front of 2nd).
*Averaging 11.8 PPG on 19-45 (42.2%) FG’s & 8-18 from three point range (44.4%), 4.8 RPG, 10 APG and 1.8 SPG in the last four games.
Caitlyn Harper (Redshirt Sophomore from Heartland, WI)
YTD>>14.3 PPG on 54.5% FG shooting & 35.1% from three point distance, 7.7 RPG, 1.3 APG & 1.6 BPG
*Two time WAC Ticketstarter Player of the Week winner.
*Six straight games in double figure scoring, averaging 18.7 PPG on 44-69 FG shooting (63.8%) & 6-14 from three (42.9%), 8.8 RPG, 1.8 APG & 1.2 BPG.
Britney Thomas (Fifth Year Senior from San Jacinto, CA)
YTD>>12.7 PPG on 64.5% FG shooting, 8.1 RPG & 1.3 BPG
*One WAC Ticketstarter Player of the Week award win.
*Last year’s WAC Preseason Player of the Year before her season was shortened due to injury.
*Averaging 10.0 PPG on 23-42 FG shooting (), 6. RPG, 1. BPG and 1.5 SPG over her last six games.
Grand Canyon University Antelopes Preview and Notes
It’s been an impressive start to Molly Miller’s tenure in Phoenix as the Lopes have fourteen wins. Especially when you consider that only one starter (Laura Piera) returned from last year and their WAC Freshman of the Year transferred out. The defense starts everything with Miller who employs forty minutes of player to player pressure. In her first year, the Lopes are first nationally in turnovers forced at 25.3 per game & steals per game at 14.6. Balance is the theme of GCU’s offense as only freshman Katie Scott is in double digit scoring at 16.4 points per game. However there are four other Lopes just below that 10 ppg threshold.
Players to Watch
Katie Scott (Freshman Center from Carl Junction, MO)
YTD: 16.4 PPG on 55.4% FG shooting (50.0% three point shooter), 5.6 RPG, 1.7 APG & 1.6 SPG
*Four out of last six games in double digit scoring, averaging 13.7 PPG on 30-58 FG shooting (51.7%) & 47.4% from 3-point range.
*Three time WAC Ticketstarter Player of the Week
Laura Piera (Junior Guard from Barcelona, Spain)
YTD: 9.9 PPG on 41.7% FG shooting (34.0% on 3s), 3.1 RPG, 2.8 APG & 3.1 SPG
*Double digit scorer in five of her last six games, averaging 11.5 PPG on 43.1% FG shooting (25-58) & 8-16 from beyond the arc (50.0%).
*15th Nationally in Steals per Game at 3.06.
Ny’Dajah Jackson (Grad Student from Oakland, CA)
YTD: 9.8 PPG on 41.1% FG shooting (34.0% on 3s), 2.5 RPG & 1.6 SPG
*Has been impressive in the Lopes last two getaway games averaging 13.5 PPG on 9-20 FG’s (45%) & 5-12 from three point distance (41.7%).
*Three assists in two of her last three games.
Keys to the Series
Lancers ball handlers vs the press
It doesn’t take watching a lot of film to realize that Grand Canyon likes to get after their opponents defensively in the full court with a pressing & trapping style. Taking care of the basketball has to be first and foremost for CBU against the Lopes, who force just over twenty five turnovers per game. Handling GCU’s pressure will be key if CBU is to remain undefeated.
Defend the three
CBU is a prolific three point shooting team shooting 32.8% and averaging about 9 makes per game. They also have multiple games with ten or more makes this season (8), with half of them coming in the last four weeks. Defensively Grand Canyon holds their opponents to 29.8% with 5.9 makes per game. If the Lancers get rolling from outside it could be a long weekend in the Inland Empire for GCU.
Battle down low
Britney Thomas & Caitlyn Harper have been a tough duo to handle for WAC opponents thus far, combining for 27.3 PPG & 15.3 RPG in conference play. Meanwhile on the other side Katie Scott has averaged 13.0 PPG & 4.6 RPG against WAC competition. However, she was held to single digit scoring in the series openers against New Mexico State & Utah Valley. A good weekend for her gives the Lopes a better opportunity for success.
CBU’s margin of victory at home in WAC play this year is a staggering 37 ppg on Friday & a bit more than 25 ppg in total. I’ve seen both teams play a bunch this year and I predict the Lancers stay undefeated with a sweep, although I wouldn’t be surprised if GCU stole a game.