Nov. 23, 2003
BERKELEY, Calif. - California easily won its 2003-04 season opener over South Carolina State, 78-47, Sunday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.
Senior guard Nihan Anaz and junior forward Leigh Gregory each scored 12 points to lead the Bears' attack. All 13 players saw action for the Bears, and 12 dented the scoreboard. Walk-on freshman guard Julia Numair held next highest honors with nine points off the bench.
With the scored tied, 4-4, with 17:38 left in the game, Cal quickly put the game out of reach. With just under 14 minutes until halftime, the Bears built their lead to 10 points at 16-6 courtesy of two Kiki Williams' free throws. About four minutes later, Olga Volkova received a pass from Anaz and converted the layup to increase the margin to 21 at 30-9. Cal obtained its first 30-point edge at 39-9 with 6:12 until the break on a layup from Emmelie Geraedts.
South Carolina State (0-2) couldn't get any closer than 28 points the rest of the game and trailed 47-11 at the break. The Bears built their biggest lead of 39 late in the second half.
The first half was one of Cal's best first halves since at least the 1998-99 season. One has to go back more than five years to find a game in which the Bears tallied more than 47 first-half points and surrendered less than 11 points.
"We came out with great intensity and set the tone for the game in the first half," said Caren Horstmeyer, who is in her fourth year at the helm of the Cal program. "When you can come out and hold a team to 11 points in the first half, that leads to success."
The Bulldogs faired better in the second half, outscoring the Bears 36-31, including matching their first-half point total in the first three minutes. Overall, though, Cal's defense was solid, forcing the SCSU into 36 turnovers, 28 coming on steals, which is one shy of the school record. Anaz led the way with six steals, and Gregory and Williams grabbed five apiece.
"To start, we forced them into some of the turnovers," said Horstmeyer, whose team recorded 20 steals in the opening stanza. "We went into a zone in the second half. That enabled them to feel less pressure, and they slowed down on their shooting. You have to stay in our zone for a little while to reap the benefits. We didn't come out with the intensity in the second half that we need to. That's something we've been working on."
Cal shot 48.1 percent from the field and limited South Carolina State to 32.1 percent. The Bears also capitalized on their free throw opportunities, sinking 25-of-35 (71.4 percent) to SCSU's 10-of-13 (76.9). Behind seven boards from Williams, the Bears held a 39-30 edge on the glass.
"Our defense set the tone for our offense because in the very beginning we were getting a lot of transition opportunities off of our defense," said Gregory. "Once the game got settled, it was our offense that allowed us to keep the lead. We got a lot of open looks out of our new sets."
Latasha Cook and Nicole Rhem paced the Bulldogs with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Bears next face one of their most difficult stretches of the season, playing four games in the next eight days, including two against top-15 ranked opponents in Colorado and Texas Tech. San Jose State is up first on Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.