March 13, 2010
LOS ANGELES -
The California Golden Bears (18-12, 11-7 Pac-10) won their quarterfinal game against Arizona State to advance to a Saturday, March 13 semifinal against the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal (29-1, 18-0 Pac-10). The game, which tips at 2:30 p.m. be the national game on Fox Sports Net (locally on Comcast Bay Area).
The Bears played an incredibly strong second half against the Arizona State Sun Devils to earn the 60-50 victory. Freshman forward DeNesha Stallworth scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half. She also had two steals, a block, and four rebounds in the final 20 minutes. It was a pair of seniors who helped set Stallworth, and the rest of the team, up for that success. Senior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson, who scored a game-high 15 points against the Sun Devils, also logged a season-high five assists with five rebounds and four steals. Senior guard Natasha Vital, who has more career assists (447) than any other current Pac-10 player, had three dishes, four rebounds, and a steal, while scoring 12 points. Seven of Vital's points came from the freethrow line, with just one miss.
The three combined for seven of Cal's 11 steals, the most steals by a Bears team ever in a Pac-10 Tournament game. The Bears' five blocks were also a Cal-best in a Pac-10 Tournament game.
Freshman forward Gennifer Brandon, who was very quiet in her last two games, was back to being a defensive force, had two of those blocks. She also grabbed 10 rebounds, the only player in the game with double-digit boards. Brandon had a stretch of three straight games with double-digit rebounds against Washington, Oregon State, and Oregon (2/14-20). Brandon leads the Bears, averaging 7.8 rebounds per game.
The Bears will now have to face the No. 2 team in the country, the Stanford Cardinal, a team they just played last Saturday. In the second of this season's Battles of the Bay, Stallworth scored 12 points with 13 rebounds, her second double-double of the season. Gray-Lawson was the top offensive threat with 15 points.
This is Cal's fourth consecutive semifinal appearance. They won their 2008 matchup with Arizona State, 65-61 to advance to their only championship game appearance. Cal has played Stanford four times in the Pac-10 Tournament and has yet to defeat the Cardinal. Over the last four seasons, Cal has two wins against Stanford, 2006-07's 72-57 victory at Maples Pavilion and the 57-54 thrilling home win last season.
PAC-10 SCORING RACE Alexis Gray-Lawson has slipped to second in the battle for the Pac-10 Scoring Title. Gray-Lawson is averaging 17.9 points per game while Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike is at 18.4. The scoring race will continue on through the post-season.
If Gray-Lawson should win the title, it will be the second consecutive year a Cal player has led the Conference in scoring. Ashley Walker ended the 2008-09 season with a Pac-10-best 18.9 points per game. Walker was the third Bear to win a Pac-10 scoring title. Jennifer Bennett, with a 23.7 points per game average, was the first ever Pac-10 scoring champ for women's basketball in 1986-87, the first season the Conference sponsored women's basketball. Trisha Stafford also led the league in scoring in 1991-92 with a 22.3 ppg average.
It would also be the second time in Gray-Lawson's career that she ended the year leading the Conference in a statistical category. She finished the 2007-08 season with a 40.0 three-point shooting percentage, tops in the Pac-10.
500 POINTS Alexis Gray-Lawson scored her 500th point of the season against Arizona State. Gray-Lawson has moved into the top-10 in the Cal record book for most points in a single season. She enters today's game with 538, in eighth place on the list.
SCORING MILESTONES Two Cal players are flirting with making it to significant scoring milestones. Senior guard Natasha Vital comes into the game with 983 career points, 17 points shy of becoming the 21st player in Cal history to score 1,000 career points.
Alexis Gray-Lawson has 1,878 points, 122 shy of 2,000, giving her an outside chance of becoming the third player in Cal history to cross the 2000 point mark. Gray-Lawson was the 9th player in Cal history to cross the 1500 point threshold.
DOUBLE DOUBLES Freshman forward DeNesha Stallworth had her third double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds last week against Stanford . It was the 15th time this season a Cal player had double-digit rebounds in a game. Gennifer Brandon leads the team with five double-doubles, all of which have come in games in which she comes off the bench.
FRESH(MAN) LINEUP Cal has used seven different starting lineups this season. They have used three different mixes that feature four freshmen in the starting lineup and two different versions of the two seniors, three freshmen. Every single eligible Cal player but junior guard Rachelle Federico has started at least one game this season.
FRESHMAN REPORT CARD The Cal freshman have more than held their own in the Conference this season. DeNesha Stallworth, a Pac-10 All-Freshman team selection, is averaging 12.5 points per game. Only one other freshman, Davellyn White of Arizona (15.7 ppg) has scored more points this season. Stallworth is the top freshman in shooting efficiency, ranking sixth overall with a 49.0 field goal percentage. Stallworth is third among freshmen in blocked shots. She has 34 this season, ranking her ninth among all Pac-10 players. Freshman Carly Noyes of Washington State leads the Conference with 57.
Gennifer Brandon, who ranks seventh overall in rebounding in the Pac-10 this season, is the top freshman in rebounds per game, averaging 7.8. Markel Walker of UCLA is right behind her at 7.4 boards per game. Brandon was an honorable mention for the all-freshman team.
Freshman guard Eliza Pierre is third among Pac-10 freshmen in steals, averaging 1.9 per game. She was the only Pac-10 freshman to earn a spot on the Pac-10 All-Defensive Team.
POST SEASON On Monday, March 15, Cal will learn their post season fate. The NCAA Tournament's field of 64 teams will be announced live on ESPN at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. If the Bears make the NCAA Tournament, they will most likely be playing in Berkeley on Saturday, March 20 as Haas Pavilion is one of the 2010 NCAA Tournament First and Second Round host sites.
If the Bears fail to make the NCAA Tournament, they will learn later that evening if they have received an invitation to the WNIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament). The 64-team field for the WNIT consists of 31 automatic berths - one from each established conference - and 33 at-large teams. The intention of the WNIT Selection Committee is to select the 33 best available at-large teams in the nation, regardless of conference or geographical location. All games in the single-elimination format are played at the main or alternate facilities of participating schools. First round games will take place March 17-19.
Details of Cal's post season will be posted on CalBears.com as soon as the information is determined.
BOYLE & THE POST SEASON Cal head coach Joanne Boyle has a perfect record for post-season qualifying as a head coach. She took her Richmond Spiders to two WNIT tournaments (advancing to the semi-finals in 2003-04) and to the NCAA's in 2004-05. Her four previous Cal teams have all qualified for the NCAA's. Even as an assistant at Duke, Boyle's teams made it to the NCAA tournament every year but her first (1993-94), eight straight trips.