Dec. 19, 2010
LAS VEGAS -
The California Golden Bears won the opening game of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic with an 81-56 victory over the UT Arlington Mavericks. Freshman guard Afure Jemerigbe scored a team-high 17 points.
Cal got off to a quick start, with sophomore center Talia Caldwell winning the opening tip, tapping it over to sophomore forward DeNesha Stallworth who zipped a pass in to a racing freshman Lindsay Sherbert who got a lay-in just six seconds into the game. Cal turned on the pressure on defense, with sophomore guard Eliza Pierre grabbing a steal and running it back to the other end to give Cal a 4-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
UTA struggled against Cals' pressure, not getting their first basket until the 16:49 mark. However, once the Mavericks found their stroke, they began draining threes, getting them back into the game in a hurry. With the Bears lead down to three, 14-11, the Bears relied on the old standards to build the lead back up. Stallworth got a quick layup after a steal by freshman guard Afure Jemerigbe. Caldwell followed with an offensive rebound and put back to put Cal up 18-11. The Bears then borrowed a page out of the Mavericks playbook with senior guard Rachelle Federico twice hitting threes to put Cal up by 10 points, the second a 30-20 advantage. The second Federico three was part of a 12-2 Bear run that helped them take a 40-27 lead into the break.
The Mavericks twice threatened to cut the Bears lead to single digits early in the second half, but a Pierre steal and layup stopped the first threat and a Sherbert three halted the other. Sherbert's trey was part of a Cal 9-2 run that put the game back in Cal's control, 49-31 with 16 minutes left in the game.
Cal extended the lead to 20, 64-44, with just over eight minutes remaining on a free throw by Caldwell. Cal held on for the remainder of the half to earn their seventh victory of the season and their first away from Haas Pavilion. Jemerigbe had a breakout game, scoring a team-high 17 points, the highest single game total of her young career. She also had five steals and seven rebounds.
"Afure had a great game today," said head coach Joanne Boyle. "You could see that it has been coming. I think she just really bought into the defensive end. She really did a good job for us down there and then she was just all the more confident on the offensive end of the floor."
The Bears, playing with just eight active players, got a strong game from Federico off the bench. The senior guard scored nine points, including nine in the first half when she was 3-for-4 from three-point range and had a pair of blocked shots in the second half.
"Rachelle came in and went 3-for-6 from the three and just stretched that lead for us a little bit," said Boyle. "She got her hands on some loose balls for us. We were able to extend the zone a little bit. They were really clogging it up with D and Talia in there and they weren't guarding our shooters. And then Mooch came in and knocked some shots down and gave us some better looks in the second half."
In the first half, UT Arlington made nine baskets, six of them coming from three-point range. They made only two three-pointers in the second half. Cal knocked down eight three-pointers with Jemerigbe and Federico accounting for five of those.
The Bears had a season-high 17 steals in the game, getting five each from Jemerigbe and Pierre. Pierre also scored a career-high 13 points.
Cal (7-2) will take on Texas Tech (10-1) in the tournament finale Monday afternoon. The Lady Raiders won the early game on Sunday, defeating the Pitt Panthers, 78-65. Sunday's game will tip at approximately 2:15 p.m. A link to live stats from the tournament will be available on CalBears.com.