Dec. 6, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Ashley Walker shook off a sluggish start to score 21 points, Natasha Vital added 12 points and No. 3 California beat Princeton 75-53 on Saturday in the first round of the Collier's International Classic.
Walker, who entered averaging 22.3 points, struggled with her shot early but scored Cal's first three baskets in the second half. The Bears (7-0) steadily pulled away and took advantage of Princeton's mistake-prone offense to improve on the best start in school history.
Whitney Downs scored a career-high 24 points and had six rebounds for the Tigers (3-3), but she was the lone Princeton player in double figures.
Vital had four 3-pointers for Cal, including a buzzer-beater from nearly halfcourt in the first half. Alexis Gray-Lawson added 12 points and 10 assists for Cal, which will play either No. 22 TCU or St. Louis for the championship.
The Bears didn't start pulling away from the Tigers until midway through the first half. Vital's 3-pointer sparked a 12-2 run to pull Cal ahead 20-10, and Devanei Hampton later sank a pair of free throws to start a 7-0 run.
Vital added her second trey of the half with four minutes left to put the Bears ahead by 13, then made her third 3-pointer from just inside the halfcourt line as the buzzer sounded, giving Cal a 39-22 lead at the break.
Walker found her rhythm in the second half and made her first three shots to help Cal build a 45-28 lead. Walker went 6-for-6 in the second half and scored 13 points for the Bears, who slowly pulled away from the pesky but overmatched Tigers.
Downs, whose previous career-best was 19 set last season, tried to keep Princeton close. The senior guard made nine of 13 shots in the second half, including a 3-pointer that pulled the Tigers within 58-46 with 7:21 left.
Vital answered with another 3-pointer for Cal and the Bears never looked back, pulling ahead 72-51 with three minutes remaining on Walker's short basket inside the paint.
Alexis Gray-Lawson posted the first double-double of her career with 12 points and a career-high 10 assists. It was the first time since Dec. 10, 2005 when Sarah Pool scored 14 points with 11 assiststhat a Cal player had a double-double with points and assists. Gray-Lawson, who leads the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio had just two turnovers to go with the 10 assists.
The Colliers International Classic concludes on Sunday when the Bears take on No. 22 TCU at 5 p.m. at Haas Pavilion in the tournament championship. Saint Louis and Princeton will play the consolation game at 2 p.m.