Four days into our trip and there is no rest for the weary! Since landing in Beijing Sunday afternoon, the Bears have been going non-stop and continued to do so Tuesday with a day trip to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City before playing a game against another professional team from the WCBA.
First things first, the day started with a short drive to Tiananmen Square while tour guide Eric Liu gave the team a quick breakdown of tourist do’s and don’t’s:
*Ask before taking a picture of a person
*Do not ask or attempt to take pictures of the security soldiers
*Do stay close to the group! Tiananmen Square is filled with thousands of people and it is easy to get separated and lost
The team took a two-hour walk through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and found that when touring in a country not as diverse as the United States, the tourists become an attraction just as much as the attractions are to the tourists. Everywhere the Bears walked they were met with scores of people wanting to take pictures with them, and the attention helped to keep the tour light hearted and fun for everyone.
Since we were walking around such a crowded park, Eric gave everyone in the Cal travel party an audio tour guide with an earpiece connected to his microphone so that we could hear his commentary no matter how far apart we were from him. It was a truly informative tour that gave the team a great amount of background on an historical area including:
*Tiananmen Square is five times as large as the Red Square – Europe’s largest park that is located in Russia
*Tiananmen Square means the “Gate of Heavenly Peace”. Tian means heaven and men means peace
*Mao Zedong, who proclaimed and founded the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread across China, but he was instead preserved in a mausoleum in Tiananmen Square to purposefully mirror the way that the Russian’s honored Vladimir Lenin in the Red Square.
*The Chinese flag’s five stars all have a purpose: the big star represents government, and the four smaller stars represent workers, farmers, businessmen and intellectuals.
*Only the emperor could enter the Forbidden City, hence the name. Twenty-four emperors lived there spanning five dynasties
After the tour, the team gathered for a highlight lunch at Xiao Wang Fu’s Home Style Restaurant where we were able to sample peking duck in addition to other great dishes. It was then time to return to the hotel for a quick one-hour turnaround until our departure for our game.
Bears vs Beijing
The second game in as many days was against another team from the WCBA that has enjoyed great success historically in the league and spawned many great players such as former WNBA Sacramento Monarch player Sui Feifei, who was on-hand Tuesday as an assistant coach for the Beijing team.
The Bears dropped the 77-68 decision Tuesday on a difficult shooting night after the fast-paced game Monday. Four players hit double-figures scoring, led by Brittany Boyd’s 18 points, and freshman Courtney Range had her second consecutive double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Boyd went 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the game.
“We played a really good team,” California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “It’s going to help us to figure out what we need to do to be great at some point. We’re not there yet. I loved our effort. This is a team that understands how to play hard. We got punished quite a bit when we gambled and didn’t have good help-side defense. It’s a smart, savvy team of veteran pros. If we didn’t get a steal or get what we wanted, the ball movement was terrific and they made us pay. Another thing that really bothered us was their size. They posted up our guards pretty effectively, and when we doubled down they knocked down a bunch of 3’s. Credit to a good team. It’s really good chance for us to see where we need to go. Our players are disappointed – no competitors like to lose – but I think they understand that this is part of a process.”
Mercedes Jefflo added 11 points, and Mikayla Lyles added 10 points for the Bears.
“It’s funny, Courtney had a quiet 15 (points) and 10 (rebounds), which speaks to how versatile and effective she is,” Gottlieb said. “We started her at the three and she probably played a majority of her minutes in the post. She’s just so long and has a ability to score in a number of different ways. She’s just scratching the surface of what she’ll be able to do as she gets more comfortable. She has a very high basketball IQ with good instincts and we’re playing her at two positions. She’s doing a nice job for us. She’s only at the very beginning of what she can do.”
Beijing matched up differently than Monday’s opponent in that the team had a traditional center and played a more inside-outside game than the three-point shooting Liaoning team.
The hosts jumped out to an early 7-0 lead before Courtney Range sparked Cal with a mid-range jumper to put the first Golden Bear points on the board. From then on, the rest of the first quarter belonged to the Bears with Cal going on a 16-1 run from 5:18 to 1:47 that began with Range’s jumper. Cal ended the first quarter with a 23-12 lead.
That lead dwindled in a 10-point second quarter as Cal went into halftime with a slim 33-30 advantage. Beijing took the lead in the third quarter and held on for the 77-68 win in front of a good-sized crowd.
“We’re excited about the potential of this team but probably more excited that we learned some lessons that will help us throughout the fall as we work to get ready for the season,” Gottlieb said.
The bus ride back to the hotel including a stop by the “Bird’s Nest” stadium that made its debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The night concluded with dinner at the hotel. Wednesday marks the last day in Beijing with a trip to the Silk Market followed by a flight to Shanghai.