GAME #30 No. 2 California (21-8, 13-5) vs No. 7 Washington State or No. 10 Oregon KayArena • Seattle, Wash. Friday, March 7 • 6 p.m. PT TV: Pac-12 Networks
BERKELEY – California carries the No. 2 seed for the third consecutive season as the Bears begin their quest for a Pac-12 Tournament championship this week at KeyArena in Seattle. Cal will begin tournament play Friday at 6 p.m. against the winner of Thursday’s Washington State-Oregon opening round game.
Cal swept Washington State (15-15, 9-9 Pac-12) and won the lone matchup against Oregon (15-14, 6-12 Pac-12) this season, however both teams gave the Bears a scare with overtime games at Haas Pavilion. California defeated Oregon 101-98 in overtime in the Pac-12 opening weekend behind Reshanda Gray’s 33 points and 13 rebounds. Cal then won an 87-70 game at Washington State before the two teams played a 75-68 overtime thriller at Haas in what was another career-weekend for Gray with 43 points and 16 rebounds.
All games except for the final are scheduled to air on the Pac-12 Networks. Friday’s game will have Krista Blunk (play-by-play) and Mary Murphy (analyst) on the call, and the duo will also broadcast Cal’s game if the Bears advance to Saturday’s semifinal.
A CALIFORNIA WIN IN FRIDAY’S QUARTERFINAL WOULD: * Advance the Bears to the semifinals for the eighth consecutive year * Move California to one game closer to the first Pac-12 Tournament title in program history * Mark win No. 79 in Gottlieb’s nearly three-year tenure - surpassing the previous program-best 78 wins over a three-year stretch (by Joanne Boyle from 2007-10) * Mark Lindsay Gottlieb 79th win in 101 games as the head coach at California (.782)
FOUR BEARS EARN ALL-PAC-12 HONORS: Juniors Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray were each named to the All-Pac-12 team with senior Afure Jemerigbe and freshman Courtney Range earning honorable mention status. Boyd was also named to the All-Defensive team with Jemerigbe also earning honorable mention status for the award. Range rounded out the honors as an honorable mention to the All-Freshman team. California’s four combined selections to the All-Pac-12 First Team and Honorable Mention list are the most in the conference.
GOTTLIEB VS THE PAC-12: California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb has solidified her mark as one of the sport’s brightest young coaches since taking over the California women’s basketball program prior to the 2011-12 season. Gottlieb is 36-2 against Pac-12 schools not from the state of California and is 10-11 against California-based Pac-12 schools in regular season and postseason action.
BOYD FIGHTS THROUGH INJURY: Brittany Boyd left the home game against Arizona with 14:29 remaining after injuring her ankle when running into a screen. The Bears led 54-32 at the time, and Mercedes Jefflo helped take over point guard duties as the Bears rolled to a 65-49 victory. In the win over No. 15 Arizona State two days later, Boyd returned to action and started for the Bears, scoring 21 points to go with 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. Boyd then missed the California season-finale against Washington due to a mild knee sprain, but the All-American candidate point guard is expected to play in Friday’s quarterfinal.
JEMERIGBE’S JUMPER: Senior Afure Jemerigbe has been an improved scorer for the Golden Bears this season and has been one of the most clutch performers for Cal since the start of Pac-12 play. Against Colorado, Jemerigbe hit the game-winning field goal with six seconds remaining, and the Stockton native scored 16 points at Arizona State with Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray in foul trouble. Jemerigbe has set a new career-high four times this season - 1) against USC when she matched her then-career-high with 17 points, 2) at Stanford and Washington State with 18 each, 3) in Cal’s victory over No. 15 Arizona State when she led all scorers with 23 points and 4) against Washington in the finale when she scored 24 points on the back of a career-best 5-of-11 effort from the 3pt line.
RPI: The ninth RPI report of the 2013-14 season was released with California dropping three spots to No. 21 in the overall rating. The Bears have played 20 teams in the RPI top 100, and Cal is currently 11-8 against top 100 RPI teams. Additionally, the Bears are the only team in the country to have three of the top four RPI teams (2 Stanford, 3 UConn, 4 Duke) on their schedule.
THE COUNTRY’S ELITE PG: Junior Brittany Boyd has steadily established herself as one of the most elite point guards in the country and is one of the rare floor generals that puts up significant numbers in all three major offensive categories - points, rebounds and assists. Boyd - who averages 14.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists - is one of just three players in the country averaging at least 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists alongside Samantha Logic of Iowa (14.1ppg, 6.6rpg, 7.5apg) and Erin Rooney of Fordham (18.2ppg, 7.1rpg, 5.3apg).
CHALLENGING SCHEDULE: California has played four games this season against AP Top 10 teams. The Bears played No. 1 Connecticut in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden, back-to-back games against No. 4 Stanford and No. 10 Duke in the season-opening weekend at Haas Pavilion.
GIVE IT TO GRAY: Junior forward Reshanda Gray currently is second in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at .604 (191-of-316) and ranks 5th nationally in the category. Gray’s production will be a note to watch throughout the postseason with the California single-season record currently set at .624 (78-of-125) by Sophie von Saldern in the 1992-93 season.