BERKELEY – In the post-game media room after No. 22/21 California defeated Bakersfield 70-51 Sunday, freshman Hind Ben Abdelkader said matter-of-factly that it was good for her to start hitting some shots again.
But the guard from Belgium did more than just hit a few shots. Ben Abdelkader scored a career-high 18 points all coming from a 6-of-9 effort from the three-point line to lead a Golden Bear team that matched the school-record with 11 made 3’s against the Roadrunners.
“This is not that crazy of a thing for us,” California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said after the outing. “I don’t know if that makes sense, but we know we have really good outside shooters. Reshanda (Gray) is playing so well that people focus on her, so at some point people are going to knock down shots that need to knock down shots. Hind really knows that role. She’s not one-dimensional. She’s does a lot of other things well too, but her getting in that rhythm felt natural for us. I’m confident and happy for her because I think it builds confidence. She was shooting in the gym the other day and when she hit a couple she said ‘I’m back!’ I told her she was never gone. It is a positive thing for her.”
Ben Abdelkader entered the game third on the team with a .276 clip from beyond the arc. After opening the year strong from the three-point line, she went just 2-of-11 in Cal’s last two wins over Idaho and Pacific. Fortunately for Golden Bears, she roared back in great fashion Sunday afternoon. When asked if it got to a point late in the second half that the rim seemed bigger for her during her shooter’s touch, Ben Abdelkader just smiled and said, “Not really.”
“I do the same movements all the time,” Ben Abdelkader said. “The fact that my teammates trust me and pass me the ball to shoot is a good feeling.”
Afure Jemerigbe added to the damage from the outside by going 3-of-6 from beyond the arc to score all nine of her points. Brittany Shine and Mikayla Lyles each hit another to contribute to the school-record outing.
Gray added 14 points and five rebounds in the post while junior Brittany Boyd dished a season-high 12 assists, marking her first double-digit assist outing since collecting her career-high of 14 against Georgetown last season on Nov. 24, 2012.
In total, eight Bears hit the scoresheet Sunday. Courtney Range had another near double-double with eight points and eight rebounds. Shine had a California-best seven points. But it was Ben Abdelkader’s three 3’s over a four minute span in the final minutes of the game that brought the biggest eruption on the Cal bench and throughout Haas Pavilion.
“The least surprised people are her teammates and her coaches,” Gottlieb said. “Hind is a great shooter. We’re more surprised when she misses. She’s been in the gym a ton. She loves the game of basketball and always takes extra shots. That’s her role, to knock down shots amongst other things. When Gray has three or four people on her, we need people to spread the defense. Hind can be a high-percentage three-point shooter all the time.”
“With any of our teammates, we just celebrate when they do something good,” Gray added. “It’s a good feeling. When she misses shots we say just keep shooting. (Today) she hit six for nine. That’s amazing.”
The Golden Bears put the game away over a five-minute stretch in the first half when a 21-20 lead swelled to a 35-20 lead.
Up next for Cal is top-ranked UConn. The two teams will meet at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, December 22 at 10:30 a.m. (PT) in the marquee matchup of the Maggie Dixon Classic.