Dec. 29, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -California came out pressing in the second half, forced turnovers and completely took over. Junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson led the charge.
"I think we felt like ourselves," she said. "We just committed to what we wanted to do. When we do that we're very dangerous."
Gray-Lawson scored 15 of her 19 points during a decisive run early in the second half and No. 13 Cal beat sloppy Saint Mary's 85-44 on Monday night in its first game in 16 days and final tuneup before the start of Pac-10 play this weekend.
She had eight straight points, including two layins off her own steals, during the 35-1 run. Senior forward Ashley Walker added 18 points before leaving with the flu in the second half for Cal (9-2).
Saint Mary's leading scorer Louella Tomlinson, the West Coast Conference Player of the Week coming off her first career triple-double at Boise State on Dec. 22, had nine points and three assists for the Gaels (3-11) but fouled out with 10:24 left in the game.
Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas ejected after consecutive technical fouls with 5:30 remaining. It was the second career ejection for the Gaels' third-year coach, who previously spent 12 years at Cal Poly Pomona.
Cal played at home in Haas Pavilion for the first time since having its school-record 33-game home nonconference winning streak snapped by Texas Christian on Dec. 7 in the championship game of the Colliers International Classic.
Devanei Hampton, the 2007 Pac-10 Player of the Year limited early following right knee surgery, had 13 points and seven rebounds in her first start of the season. Cal is still waiting for 6-foot-5 center Rama N'diaye to return. N'diaye is recovering from reconstructive right knee surgery after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament during Cal's first-round NCAA tournament victory against San Diego in March.
"I'm not trying to do a lot," Hampton said. "Everybody knows what I'm capable of doing. It's just a matter of time. I'm taking it slowly and surely."
Freshman guard Casey Morris scored a career-high 20 points for Cal, making 9 of 11 free throws. She scored consecutive baskets to cap a 16-4 Cal run midway through the first half for a 29-18 advantage, helping the Bears to a 37-26 lead at the break. The teams combined for 25 first-half turnovers.
After Kira Kojola's 3-pointer to start the second half for Saint Mary's, Cal scored 22 unanswered points and held Saint Mary's scoreless for more than five minutes. The Gaels didn't get their second field goal of the half until Leanna Richey's basket at 8:50 and finished with 31 turnovers.
"I think momentum just took over really quickly," Tomlinson said. "They're the type of team that with steals and fastbreaks they're off and running."
The Bears were back on the floor following a long layoff that came on the heels of a deflating 86-75 loss to Oklahoma. This marked the program's longest break without playing since the 1986-87 season when the Bears began Pac-10 play. The school's longest stretch without a game was 17 days in 1983.
Cal's game with seventh-ranked Baylor scheduled for last Monday night was canceled after the Lady Bears got stuck in a snowstorm in Portland after a game in Oregon and couldn't make it to Berkeley.
"We needed to play a game. It felt like a year since our last game," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "Again, it was a game of two halves. I thought we did a great job in the second half. We've got to be consistent."
Cal has won the last four meetings with Saint Mary's and holds a 13-5 advantage in the series overall. The Bears are 33-13 against the West Coast Conference since the WCC began sponsoring women's basketball in 1985-86.
The Bears end the nonconference schedule with a 9-2 record. They open Pac-10 play on the road this Friday, Jan. 2, at Arizona.