Nov. 30, 2007
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Junior forward Ashley Walker and sophomore center Rama N'diaye each posted double-doubles to lead No. 12 California to a 77-61 victory over Saint Mary's Friday night on the opening day of the Contra Costa Times Classic at Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears improved to 6-1, while the Gaels dropped to 5-3.
"I was really disappointed how we came out," Cal head coach Joanne Boyle said. "I told the kids that this is Saint Mary's national championship. If we don't come out and set the tone, we were going to be in trouble, and that's exactly what happened. We didn't adjust. We ran back in transition and fell into the paint and didn't match up. I challenged their heart in one of the timeouts. We pressed and got some easy buckets. We faced that pressure with a rotation of 10 or 11 kids (from Saint Mary's). We calmed down eight to 10 minutes left in the first half."
Walker, who leads the Pac-10 in scoring and rebounding, posted 20 points and 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double in seven games, and N'diaye contributed career highs of 16 points and 18 rebounds. The duo helped Cal secure a monstrous 62-32 rebounding advantage. The 62 boards were two shy of matching the school record.
"Rama is starting to find her rhythm," Boyle said. "We got on her about reversing the ball and diving. We're looking for simple things. Early on, we were forcing the ball into Ashley (Walker). In the second half, we were forcing the ball into Ashley. Rama really stepped up because Ashley was demanding so much attention on that end of the floor. Rama did a great job finishing and rebounding and getting putbacks for us."
Saint Mary's jumped out to a 19-6 lead with 15:58 remaining in the first half behind 10 points from Jontelle Smith and nine from Serene Benevente. During that stretch, Smith and Benanvente hit two threes each. In the opening half, Saint Mary's converted 8-of-14 three-pointers with Benavente sinking all three of her attempts.
Cal dug in defensively and closed to within 19-16 following a 10-0 run, which included a three-pointer by sophomore guard Natasha Vital. Mikaela Cowles hit a three-pointer to end Saint Mary's over five-minute scoring drought.
Freshman forward Kelsey Adrian sank a three-pointer with 9:10 to go in the first half to give Cal its first lead of the game at 23-22. Saint Mary's answered on the other end of the court with a three-pointer by Suzie Davis and built a 34-28 advantage following another trey by Davis with 4:35 on the clock.
Cal pitched a shutout the rest of the half and went on a 12-0 run, including six of Walker's 16 first-half points, to secure a 40-34 halftime advantage.
The Bears scored the first six points of the second half to grab a 46-34 lead courtesy of two free throws from Walker with 18:11 to play in the game.
The Gaels closed to within 46-39, but three-pointers by sophomore guard Lauren Greif to begin and end a 10-3 Cal run helped the Bears post their biggest lead of the game at that point at 56-42 with 12:23 left on the clock. Walker hit two free throws later to also give Cal a 14-point edge at 60-46.
Cal maintained its double-digit lead the rest of the game. Junior forward Shantrell Sneed hit a jumper to give the Bears' their largest advantage of the game at 68-51 at the 5:18 mark.
The Gaels' three-point shooting cooled off considerably by the end of the contest, but they still managed to sink 11-of-29 attempts. Greif, Vital, Adrian and redshirt sophomore guard Alexis Gray-Lawson accounted for Cal's five treys (5-of-13). Gray-Lawson dished off a season-high six assists and corralled a season-high seven boards.
Smith paced Saint Mary's with 22 points, and Benavente tallied 19 points. "Paul (Thomas, head coach) has done an unbelievable job with Saint Mary's," Boyle said. "You watch them warm up, and you see their size. We preached to the kids that they're trying to build their program into what we have. He gets everything out of his kids. They're so well coached. They do exactly what they need to do with their personnel."
The Bears return to action against No. 18 Vanderbilt Sunday on the final day of the three-team Contra Costa Times Classic. The Gaels face the Commodores Saturday at 4 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.