Arizona Women's Basketball

California Coach, Whose Team Faces Arizona Wildcats Again, Says of Her Team: “We’re Fighters”


Beating two ranked teams in consecutive games as the last-place team of a conference means Cal is playing with house money.

Cal lost six of its last seven games in February and now the Golden Bears are as loose as a big-spender at Vegas.

Cal (12-18) is in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals after winning as the lowest seed of the conference, No. 12, against No. 5 ASU on Thursday afternoon at the Mandalay Bay Events Center at Las Vegas.

Next challenge: A more focused, determined fourth-seeded Arizona team that Cal stunned Sunday at McKale Center. This time, the Wildcats (23-6) won’t play with the distraction of Senior Day activities after coming off one of the program’s biggest wins in history, an upset of No. 4 Stanford last Friday.

“Obviously we’re super excited to be extending this journey,” Cal coach Charmin Smith said after the 71-67 win over ASU. “It’s just really special. This group has been completely bought in and committed for this entire season through all the ups and downs. And we knew, if we could just stay together, that we could have more special moments, and this is definitely a special moment. I’m so happy for our seniors.”

While Cal is happy to still be there, Arizona has much more to play for as a projected No. 4 seed and a first and second round site host by the NCAA tournament selection committee. Arizona is ranked as the No. 14 team by the committee.

A victory tomorrow against Cal at 12:30 p.m. Tucson time (Pac-12 Networks/KTUC (1400-AM)) should help solidify that top 16 standing and the opportunity to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament from March 20-23.

I think with Arizona we for sure have to take care of the basketball,” Smith said. “We did a decent job there. We have to make sure that we have all eyes on Aari McDonald all the time. She’s is a phenomenal basketball player. She makes them go.

“And we have to bring that toughness. That’s been the difference for us. When we play tough, you know, when we are extremely aggressive, it really changes the whole feel for us.”

Arizona’s women’s team at the end of practice in Las Vegas (Arizona Athletics photo)

Cal is not playing out of desperation knowing that the next loss will end its season. it wants to keep this wild ride going.

“We don’t want to go home,” said Jaelyn Green, who had 14 points off the bench against ASU. “That would have been my last game here. I had to give it everything I had and just play for these guys next to me.”

Smith, in her first season as Cal’s coach, said her team is carrying on the theme of being the “tougher team.”

“We can’t let them want it more than us,” Smith said. “We can’t let them be tougher than us. And I think we showed up in that department (against ASU), and it allowed us to be able to get the win.”

Normally, a last-place team rides out the season, but this is the Pac-12. Obviously, the team with the worst record in the conference is better than most teams that are in the lower-division of their conference in the nation.

“I think, you know, it is just like who we’ve been all year. Just through a really, really challenging Pac-12 season, we have always stuck together,” Smith said. “We have enjoyed seeing each other each day. We have played hard for one another. They have stayed committed to what I’m trying to get them to do and to this program.

“I’m just really, really happy that it paid off in this moment and we did get to dance again.”

A reporter in the press conference room asked Smith, Brown and Cailyn Crocker to describe their team in one word.

“Resiliency,” Brown said.

“I was going to say EDNA,” Crocker said.

“Are we letting them know what EDNA means?” Smith said.

“No. It’s just EDNA. It is a word we say to each other, along with resiliency, at halftime. Just when somebody may shake their head, be mad, we say EDNA, and everybody knows what it is. It is a little laugh, and just keep going,” Crocker said.

“That’s our in-house acronym,” Smith said. “We’re keeping it in-house.

“For me, it is fighters. We’re fighters.”


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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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