Dec. 27, 2011
Thursday, Dec. 29: California at UCLA, 7 p.m.
Live Video Streaming: UCLABruins.com; Live Audio Streaming: CalBears.com Gametracker: CalBears.com
Saturday, Dec. 31: California at USC, 11 a.m.
Live Audio Streaming: CalBears.com; Gametracker: CalBears.com
BERKELEY - The California Golden Bears (9-3) open up conference play, taking on their first Pac-12 opponents of the year when they head to Los Angeles for games against UCLA (5-6) and USC (5-5). The Bears will open on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. against the Bruins in a game featuring a pair of first-year head coaches each looking for their first Pac-12 victory.
The Bears finished the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 9-3 record, the fourth time in the last six years they won nine games prior to conference play. The Bears went 8-3 last season before opening the Pac-10 schedule at home against Stanford. The Bears three losses this season have come by just six points to three top-25 teams that have a combined record of 29-4.
This is the first time since 2006-07 that the Bears will start conference games before New Years. The Bears played at the LA schools before Christmas in 2006, falling in overtime to UCLA (77-68) on Dec. 20, but earn a win over USC, 62-53 on Dec. 22. The Bears also played home games against Arizona State (Dec. 28, L, 74-58) and Arizona (Dec. 39, W, 65-48) that season before New Years Day.
The Bears will try to snap a six-game losing streak against the Bruins, including three losses last season. Cal's last win over UCLA was in 2008-09 in Berkeley (64-48). The Bears last win at UCLA was a 73-70 overtime victory in 2007-08. Three of the last six games at UCLA were decided in overtime. The last time Cal beat the Bruins in regulation at UCLA was a 73-61 win in 2004-05.
The Bruins have lost four games in a row and are tied with Washington State with six losses so far this season.
Thursday's game, like all UCLA women's games this season, will be played at the John Wooden Center as their usual arena, Pauley Pavilion, undergoes a year-long renovation. The UCLA men's team is playing in three different venues this season with 14 regular-season games at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, four at the Honda Center in Anaheim, and an exhibition game that was played at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
The Bears are 8-16 in the the first game of conference play since joining the then-named Pac-10 in 1987-88. The Bears had a stretch of 12 straight years dropping the first game of Pac-10 play that was finally snapped in Joanne Boyle's third season, a 66-40 victory over Washington in Berkeley to start the 2007-08 conference season. The Bears have dropped their last two conference openers, both were against Stanford.
With a Little Help The Bears are averaging 15.58 assists per game. If the number stays at that level for the entire season, it will be the highest assist-per-game average since the Bears averaged 16.8 per game in 1994-95. In the month of December, the combo of junior Eliza Pierre and freshman Brittany Boyd are averaging a combined 9.0 assists per game.
Rebounding The Bears moved up to second in the country (and first in the Pac-12) in rebounding margin, averaging 18.4 more rebounds per game than their opponents. The Bears have outrebounded their opponent in every game this season. Maryland leads the nation with 20.6 more rebounds per game than their opponents.
The Bears have outrebounded their opponents by double digits in nine games this season, including all of their victories and have four games with a 20-or-more rebound differential including besting CSU Bakersfield by 36 (60-24).
The Bears have three games this season where they have pulled in 60 or more rebounds as a team, including 61 last week against Santa Clara. The Bears had one game last season with more than 60 rebounds, the 64-board performance against Yale, which set the Haas Pavilion record, and tied the program record, for most rebounds in a game.
Brandon paces the Bears at 10.7 rebounds per game,11th in the nation and tied for second in the Pac-12.
Only one Cal player in the last 15 years has ended the season averaging nine or more rebounds per game, all-time rebounding leader Ashley Walker who accomplished the feat with 9.3 rpg in 2007-08. The last time that a player averaged more than 9.5 rebounds per game for an entire season was 1993-94 when Ingrid Dixon averaged a program-record 12.0 per game.
Low Down on Down Low The Bears have scored at least 40 points in the paint in each of their last three games. Only one game this season, the opener at Rutgers, have the Bears been outscored in the paint.
Bench Scoring The Cal bench has scored 392 of the Bears 874 points this season. The Bears bench needs just 27 points to match last year's season-long total (419 points). The non-starters are contributing a average of 32.7 ppg this season with Cal's opponent's non-starters averaging 12.1 points per game. Against Dartmouth, Cal's non-starters scored 39 points in a game in which the Big Green scored a total of 39 points.
Leading Scorers The Bears have had eight different players lead the team in scoring in a game this season. Last season, the Bears had nine different players lead the team in scoring in at least one game, with every one of their active players pacing the squad at least once.
Afure Jemerigbe Sophomore guard Afure Jemerigbe scored a season-high 15-points against Dartmouth. She is averaging 11.5 ppg in her last four games. Jemerigbe has been hot from three-point range, going a team-best 7-for-16 from beyond the arc in the month of December.
Eliza Pierre Junior guard Eliza Pierre has been a much more consistent player this season. Pierre is shooting 44.4 percent from the field, almost a 100-point improvement over her career shooting percentage coming into the season (34.9 percent). Pierre also has a 1.51 assist-to-turnover percentage this year. She had a career mark of 1.10 coming into the year. Pierre also has the second-best free throw shooting percentage on the squad, going 9-for-13 from the charity stripe. Last season, Pierre shot 49.2 percent from the free throw line.
Boyd has six games this season with five or more assists including dishing nine against UNLV.
Only three times in the last 12 years has a Cal player averaged four assists per game for an entire season. Natasha Vital did it twice, with 4.0 as a freshman and 4.1 as a sophomore.
Ole Ole Ole Ole Both head coaches for the UCLA/Cal showdown have roots at UC Santa Barbara. Bruins head coach Cori Close was a four-year starting point guard at UC Santa Barbara and captained the 1992 and 1993 teams which each advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. She was a 1993 first-team all-Big West selection and the MVP of the 1993 Conference Tournament. Close was the first player in school history to record more than 1,000 points and 500 assists for a career and ranked among the top 10 in seven Gaucho statistical categories. She averaged a school-record 8.3 assists per game in 1993 which was among the top 10 marks in the nation that season. On April 30, 2005, Close was inducted into the UC Santa Barbara Athletics Hall of Fame.
Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb spent three seasons with UCSB (2009-11), leading the Gauchos to two postseason berths and a pair of Big West Conference championships, amassing a 56-39 (.589) record. She was named the 2009 Big West Coach of the Year.
Gen Brandon vs. Ohio State Redshirt sophomore forward Gennifer Brandon broke her own Haas Pavilion rebounding record, pulling in 24 rebounds against Ohio State. Brandon originally set the home court mark in the 2010 first round WNIT game against UC Davis when she had 21 rebounds. Brandon's 24 rebounds was the ninth time a Cal player had 20 or more rebounds in a game. Junior center Talia Caldwell was the last to achieve that mark when she had 20 rebounds on Feb. 24, 2011 against Oregon.
The 24 rebounds ties for the second most in a single game by a Bear in program history, tying with the 24 Jill Weddick pulled down against Yale on Jan. 9, 1979. Colleen Galloway is the only player to have more than 24 rebounds in a game, having a 26-board game against Nevada on March 3, 1978.
Only one player, Kelli Riles of UNC Asheville, has had more than 24 rebounds in a game this season. Riles had 28 against South Carolina Upstate. Riles also had a 24-rebound performance against Winston-Salem. Erika Jones of UCF joins Brandon and Riles in the 24-rebound performance category with her two dozen against South Alabama.
Brandon also scored 24 points in the effort. Not surprising, her rebounding led to many of those points. Brandon had nine offensive rebounds. Five of those O-boards immediately proceeded a Brandon putback. Twice more, she was fouled while going for a putback after an O-board, with Brandon making three of those four free throw attempts. She was also fouled on one of the makes and hit the free throw afterward. In all, she scored 14 points off of her nine offensive rebounds.
Her 24 points and her 24 rebounds were both career highs. Her 24 points were just the second time this season a Cal player scored 20 points in a game. Reshanda Gray had the other 20-point performance (23 against UNLV).
We Assist, You Assist California women's basketball has announced that Team Up For Youth and the Coaching Corps program will be the focus of this season's We Assist, You Assist campaign. Fans are encouraged to pledge money, from pennies to dollars, for each assist tallied by the Bears this season. Coaching Corps is a program that pairs trained volunteer coaches with kids in low-income communities so that all children have the powerful experiences of playing and learning, winning and losing, and through it all, discovering their best selves. Dedicated college students serve as volunteer coaches and role models for kids in after school programs in under served communities. Coaching Corps harnesses the energy and passion of young adults to help kids in low-income communities. The goal is to help kids do better in school, have higher self-esteem, stay away from drugs and alcohol, and create a healthy and active lifestyle that lasts their entire lives. Donation forms can be downloaded from CalBears.com or picked up at any Bears home game this season.