Feb. 27, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. -
A LOOK AT THE GOLDEN BEARS
After winning three of its last four games, No. 6-seed California (18-10, 10-8 Pac-10, 6th) opens the Pac-10 Tournament in the quarterfinals against No. 3-seed UCLA (17-10, 12-6, 3rd) Saturday, March 4 at 11 a.m. at HP Pavilion in San Jose. The winner of the conference tournament, which runs March 3-6, receives an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time in the five-year history of the tournament, the Golden Bears will not be playing on the first day of the tournament because seeds 1-6 receive byes, and Cal has never been seeded higher than No. 8.
The Bears have won their first-round games each of the last three years but have never advanced past the quarterfinals.
This has been a breakout year for Cal in many ways. The Bears are guaranteed to post their first winning overall record and Pac-10 mark since 1992-93. That year, the program tallied a 19-10 record and tied for fourth in the conference at 10-8, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for Cal's last postseason berth. The postseason absence will likely come to an end this season in the form of a WNIT selection and possibly an NCAA Tournament berth. Cal's RPI is No. 61 according to College Basketball News' latest ranking released today. The NCAA, which listed Cal at No. 66 last week, releases its next RPI report March 1.
Cal ranks seventh in the Pac-10 in scoring at 64.8 ppg but is second in the league in scoring defense at a school-record pace of 59.1 ppg. Since a 90-87 overtime setback against UCLA Jan. 29, Cal has surrendered only 54.9 ppg in its last seven outings and is 15-2 when holding opponents under 60 points this year. Saturday, the Bears will need a strong defensive showing against the Bruins, who rank second in the league in scoring (78.6).
Cal, which may be the only team in Division I which starts four freshmen, is led in scoring by those same four local individuals, which helped comprise the No. 7-rated recruiting class last season. Center Devanei Hampton (Oakland) leads Cal in scoring (15.1 ppg, seventh Pac-10) and rebounding (7.8 rpg, third Pac-10), while her former Oakland Tech teammate, Alexis Gray-Lawson, is second at 14.6 ppg (10th Pac-10). Forward/center Ashley Walker (Modesto) is third on the team in scoring (13.1 ppg) and second on the Bears in rebounding (7.7 ppg, fourth Pac-10). Guard Jené Morris, who is coming off a career-high 19 points in an 81-58 triumph over Washington, is fourth on Cal at 8.8 ppg.
Forward Reneé Wright, the only senior on the team, rounds out the starting lineup. Wright is fifth on the team in scoring (6.7 ppg) and third in rebounding with a career-high 6.6 rpg.
Redshirt junior guard Sarah Pool (2.6 ppg, 2.7 apg) and sophomore forward Krista Foster (4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg) are the first two players off the Bears' bench. Four of Cal's starters average at least 30 minutes per game.