Jan. 2, 2003
MACON, Ga. - It took a strong second half, after a sluggish start, for the California women's basketball team to win its second consecutive game with a 69-60 victory against Mercer tonight at Porter Gym.
The victory pushed Cal's record to 5-5 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season when the team sported an identical record after as many games. Mercer remained winless at 0-9.
The Bears opened the final frame on an 8-2 run to open a lead they would not relinquish. Mercer followed with a run of its own to close the gap to three at 40-37 before junior LaTasha O'Keith responded by scoring the next nine Cal points to start an 11-2 run that stretched the lead to 13. Mercer cut the advantage to just eight on two occasions, but could get no closer.
In the final 28.5 minutes of the game, the Bears made 23 of 40 shots after starting the game missing their first 16 attempts from the field. Cal trailed by just four, 7-3, when it recorded its first basket of the game at the 11:22 mark thanks to a sophomore Jacqueline Sanchez putback following three offensive rebounds. Cal battled to keep itself in the game, never trailing by more than six points. Freshman Lexie Helgerson hit the first of her pair of three-pointers with one second left in the first half to send the teams to their locker rooms with the score knotted at 27-27.
"We got so up on defense that we started to rush offensively," said California head coach Caren Horstmeyer trying to explain her team's start. "We ventured from our game plan. We were playing their game at their tempo. When we started playing our tempo, our shots started falling.
"The emphasis in the second half was let's get better ball movement, let's reverse the ball from side to side and we're going to have easier shots."
Senior Amber White, who came into the game averaging two points, and sophomore Leigh Gregory tied for team-high scoring honors with 12 points apiece. Gregory also added a career-high nine rebounds as junior Timea Ivanyi grabbed eight off the glass.
The Bears dominated on the boards, tying their season high with 47, including 19 on the offensive end. Mercer cleared 30 from the glass.
"We were missing shots and then going to get the offensive rebounds", said Horstmeyer. "Ultimately our staying on the boards was a key to the game as it allowed us to get fouled and get to the free throw line." The Bears were 14-for-18 from the charity stripe in the second half.
Horstmeyer played 13 players, much in part to foul trouble that saw five different players pick up two fouls in the first half. But the Bears played well as a team, as they dished off 19 assists on 23 baskets.
Mercer was led by junior Jo Jo Carter with 14 points. Sophomore Dana Zimmerman, a Redding, Calif., native chipped in seven points.
California looks to make it three victories in a row when it returns to action Saturday afternoon when it heads to Athens, Ga., to face Georgia at 2:30 p.m. EST.