Dec. 3, 2005
BERKELEY, Calif. - California posted its best defensive effort in seven seasons in a 71-36 victory over Columbia Saturday afternoon on the opening day of the second-annual Contra Costa Times Classic at Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears improved to 5-2 with their 16th consecutive home non-conference victory, while the Lions dropped to 2-3 in their first-ever meeting with Cal.
Today's game marked the fewest points Cal has surrendered since a 40-35 victory over Pittsburgh on the first day of the Oakland Tribune Classic, Dec. 20, 1998. The 35-point margin of victory equaled the Bears' biggest since an 80-45 triumph over Lipscomb, Jan. 4, 2002, in the Bahamas.
The game was tied at 9-9 with 12:29 to play in the first half before Cal freshman forward/center Ashley Walker ignited an 11-0 run with five of her game-high 19 points. The Bears led 20-9 with 8:16 left in the first half and gradually distanced themselves further from the Lions.
"We played a great 35 minutes," said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle. "For the first five minutes, we just kind of watched. Columbia played with us. We were going to see what kind of team they were. That's not what a championship is all about. You've got to come out and protect your home floor and dictate tempo. After the timeout at the 16-minute mark, we changed our philosophy. They understood what I was talking about. "
Walker hit a jumper with 4:47 remaining in the first half to open up a 34-14 Cal lead. Junior forward/center Emmelie Geraedts sent the Bears into the locker room up 37-14 with two free throws. She finished the game with four points and two boards.
All nine dressed Cal players saw action in today's game. Freshman forward Shantrell Sneed is expected to miss two weeks after spraining her knee in practice on Nov. 30. Junior guard Keanna Levy also made the most of her minutes, recording a season-high nine points and a career-high eight rebounds.
Columbia didn't eclipse the 20-point plateau until Megan Griffith hit a three-pointer to make the score 46-21 at the 14:33 mark. Levy gave the Bears their first 30-point advantage at 58-28 with a basket with 7:40 left in the contest. The final margin equaled Cal's biggest lead of the game.
Walker's 19 points equaled her career high set against Radford Nov. 18. She entered the game second in the Pac-10 at 2.3 bpg and helped her cause with a career-high six blocks. Freshman center Devanei Hampton posted 16 points and eight boards. Hampton and Walker made the majority of their contributions in the first half, as both gained some valuable second-half rest for tomorrow's UNLV match-up.
"These games are getting us seasoned for (the Pac-10 games)," said Boyle. "Both (Hampton and Walker) are freshmen and inexperienced. The more minutes they get in non-conference play getting a feel of how to play with each other and with our guard play is only going to make us better. Running our transition today was probably the best we've done all year. You don't want to have to grind out points all game."
Redshirt junior guard Sarah Pool helped jumpstart Cal's transition game today, dishing off a season-high eight assists.
"We're a transition team," said Pool. "That's what we do. It just started to pick up. People were running. Our posts were running. Our forwards were out running. We started to get a couple of buckets quick, and the momentum just kept building from there."
Sophomore forward Krista Foster added 10 points off the bench for the Bears. Michelle Gage, from San Rafael, Calif., led Columbia with 10 points.
Cal shot 46.3 percent from the floor and held Columbia to an opponent season low of 24.6 percent. Led by senior forward Renee Wright's nine rebounds, the Bears held a commanding 53-40 rebounding edge. The 53 rebounds were a season high. Freshmen guards Alexis Gray-Lawson (four) and Jene Morris (three) combined for seven steals for Cal. Morris entered the game the Pac-10 leader at 3.8 spg.
Tomorrow's action tips off at 1 p.m. with Albany (2-4) facing Columbia. Cal battles UNLV (4-1) looking to win its tournament for the third straight year at approximately 3:20 p.m. UNLV defeated Albany, 78-56, in the first game today. Kameca Simmons and Sheena Moore paced the Lady Rebels with 12 points each, while Tanika Thrower led the Great Danes with 12 points, as well.