It’s expected to be fast vs. slow when the Sacramento State women’s team plays Villanova in the opening round of the Cal Classic on Saturday in Berkeley.
Sac State plays up-tempo in “The System” under third-year coach Bunky Harkleroad, whose teams have ranked among the top Division I offenses in the country. The Hornets (1-3) were third in team scoring last season and are 15th this season (84.3 points).
Villanova (5-1) is usually one of the nation’s stingiest defensive teams. The Wildcats are holding opponents to 54.6 points under coach Harry Perretta, who has won 687 games in his 38 seasons at the Big East Conference school.
“It will be interesting,” Harkleroad said. “It’s really slow how they play. Our challenge will be to speed them up. We’ve got to get them running around and get them unorganized. If we let Villanova stay organized, we’ll be in trouble.”
No. 18 Cal (5-1) and Saint Mary’s (5-1) are the other teams in the tournament. The Hornets are playing six of their first seven games on the road.
“I think it toughens us up,” Harkleroad said. “We learn a lot in those situations when you play great opponents on the road. If you make a mistake, you pay. With being in the Big Sky Conference, you have to learn how to play on the road.”
The Hornets began 2-10 last season, then rallied to go 16-6 the rest of the way, finish second in the Big Sky Conference and earn their first postseason berth. The Hornets lost to Saint Mary’s in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The Hornets, 24-5 at home in Harkleroad’s first two seasons, lost Saturday’s home opener to USF 96-95 in a thriller more fitting of the Hornets’ style of play.
Sac State shot a season-best 42 percent, 34 percent from three-point range, and 83 percent from the foul line, but was outrebounded 52-31 by the taller Dons.
“One of the frustrations we’ve had when you play 14 players is that it takes longer to get a rhythm and find out who is going to rise and who is going to separate themselves (to play more minutes),” Harkleroad said. “Right now it’s been like an audition in some regards.”
Doherty helps spark Aggies – The UC Davis women’s team, 4-2 after a four-game winning streak, plays at Saint Mary’s (5-1) on Thursday night.
Aggies senior center Alyson Doherty was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week after averaging 17.7 points and eight rebounds in victories over Air Force, Portland State and Portland. She is second in the conference in field-goal percentage (51.9), third in free-throw percentage (81.3) and fourth in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (8.2).