Nov. 22, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Alexis Gray-Lawson hustled all over the court on the way to 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists and No. 7 California pulled off the biggest home victory of fourth-year coach Joanne Boyle's tenure with a 66-52 upset of third-ranked Rutgers on Friday night.
Ashley Walker added 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Golden Bears (3-0) won their 32nd straight non-conference game in Haas Pavilion, pushing the tempo for the entire 40 minutes against the sluggish Scarlet Knights (2-1). This was Cal's most notable victory since winning at rival and then-eighth-ranked Stanford 72-57 on Feb. 4, 2007.
Once the final buzzer sounded, Cal's players gathered at midcourt for a group embrace.
"Just a great game," Boyle said. "I'm so proud of the kids. ... We've talked, this year in particular, about finishing, finishing big games. That was the theme. I was telling them how proud I am of them and thinking ahead, 'Where could we be in March?'"
Of Rutgers' highly touted freshman class, April Sykes was the only one who did much, scoring 16 of her 18 points in the second half for cold-shooting Rutgers. Epiphanny Prince, who led the team in scoring in the first two games as the Scarlet Knights averaged 84.5 points, was held to 15 points on 6-for-15 shooting and limited because of foul trouble.
Trailing 30-20, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer subbed for all five of her starters only about 2 1/2 minutes into the second half and Cal answered with a 9-2 spurt to go ahead by 18, 40-22. Kia Vaughn approached Stringer to go back into the game and the intense coach then said something to the starters and sent them back in with 15:24 remaining - but Cal's run to start the half still wound up at 22-2.
Vaughn began the game guarding Walker, who was coming off a 27-point, 17-rebound performance against Nevada on Sunday. Walker still found ways to stay involved in the offense and didn't force things when swarmed by defenders.
Gray-Lawson, who has been working to contribute more with her rebounding, hit the offensive glass at every opportunity to set the tone early for the Bears. She sat down for good with 1:16 to play and received a roaring ovation. She ended the game with 9 rebounds, tying her career high. Cal held a 36-28 rebounding advantage.
Rutgers went scoreless for a 6-minute, 10-second stretch midway through the first half and trailed 28-20 at the break. The Scarlet Knights then went nearly five minutes without scoring in the second half.
Cal came out mixing its defense between a 3-2 zone and a man-to-man in an effort to force Rutgers to beat the Bears from the perimeter. The Scarlet Knights began the game 4-for-14, committed nine quick fouls and were outrebounded 12-5 in the opening 11 minutes after holding a 17.5-rebounding edge over their opponents in the first two games.
And this Bay Area weekend doesn't get any easier: Rutgers plays at No. 8 Stanford on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights began the 2002-03 season on the road at Cal and Stanford, losing 64-60 to the Cardinal at Maples Pavilion on Nov. 22, 2002, despite a 22-3 run to start the second half.
Rutgers had won the three previous meetings against Cal, including a 56-51 victory at home last Dec. 10.
This Bears' team was short-handed, too. Cal had said it would make game-time decisions on the status of injured centers Devanei Hampton - the 2007 Pac-10 Player of the Year - and Rama N'diaye as both recover from right knee surgery. Neither even dressed.
The win over Rutgers, ranked third in this week's AP poll and second in the USA Today/ESPN poll, was the sixth victory over a ranked team during coach Joanne Boyle's tenure at Cal, and the biggest since the team knocked off then-ranked No. 7 Stanford at Stanford in February of 2004. It was also the highest-ranked opponent the Bears have defeated since they posted a 74-65 victory over the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal Jan. 10, 1992.
The victory also extended the Bears streak of consecutive non-conerence victories at Haas Pavilion to 32.
The Bears will leave early next week to head to the Virgin Islands, where they will play three games in the Paradise Jam tournament in St. Thomas. They open the tournament on Thanksgiving Day when they take on South Florida.