Nov. 10, 2007
FRESNO, Calif. - Junior forward Ashley Walker posted 31 points and a career-high 23 rebounds to lead No. 13 California to an 83-79 victory over Fresno State Sunday in both teams' season opener at the Save Mart Center.
"I'm glad to leave here with a win," said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle, who directed the Bears to their fifth straight season-opening win. "Fresno State is really going to be a great team with this young group of kids. They're learning a new system now and are working out the kinks. It obviously wreaked havoc on us. It wasn't until the last two minutes or minute of the game that we were able to pull it out. We had a lot of heart down the stretch. That's always been the mainstay of my team. They gut things out, and it was no different today."
Walker had the biggest overall performance for the Bears, but it was junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson who provided the game-winning points. With 34 seconds left in the game, Gray-Lawson received a pass from Walker and sank her second three-pointer to break a 79-79 tie. Emma Andrews missed a layup for Fresno State on the other end of the court and Walker grabbed the rebound.
The Bulldogs ended up fouling Gray-Lawson, who made 1-of-2 free throws. Walker corralled the rebound of Gray-Lawson's missed free throw, and the Bears dribbled out the final seconds on the clock to complete the come-from-behind win.
"We put a lot on these two," said Boyle, who pointed to Walker and Gray-Lawson who joined her in the post-game interview room. "It just so happens that Ashley got a big chunk of that responsibility today, and she's always stepped up to the challenge. We were really nervous, and we didn't get her good touches early on. We figured it out in the second half that she really needed to touch the ball. With that said, she worked hard on the offensive and defensive glass to get us more opportunities to score."
Gray-Lawson finished the game with 15 points, and freshman guard/forward Kelsey Adrian tallied 13 points off the bench. Walker, who led the Pac-10 with 12 double-doubles last season, now has 21 for her career. Walker also had four assists, four steals and four blocks today, as she capitalized on a size advantage against the Bulldogs' guard-oriented rotation.
The Bears opened the season without Pac-10 Player of the Year Devanei Hampton. Hampton had surgery on her right knee yesterday and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
With 14:25 remaining in the game, Fresno State secured its largest lead of the game at 53-44 after a steal and layup by LaToya Brown.
The Bears weren't about to fold, as sophomore guard Natasha Vital ignited Cal's comeback effort. She stole the ball and scored on a layup and then hit two free throws to begin an 8-2 spurt that brought the Bears to within three points.
Fresno State rebuilt its lead to six points but four free throws from Walker and a three-pointer by Gray-Lawson tied the game at 61-61 with 7:48 remaining in the contest. Cal tied the game on two more occasions, including at 66-66 with 5:21 on the clock.
The Bulldogs regained the momentum briefly courtesy of a three-pointer by Hayley Munroe. Tierre Wilson, who led Fresno State with 22 points, converted a three-pointer to put her team ahead 74-40 with Gray-Lawson out of the game. The Bulldogs made their last surge after Gray-Lawson left the game with 5:05 to play after she was poked in the eye. Gray-Lawson returned to the court at the 2:51 mark with the Bulldogs clinging to a 76-72 margin.
A Walker layup with 1:33 remaining in the season opener gave the Bears a 77-76 edge, and Gray-Lawson stole the ball from Wilson and hit a layup to extend the advantage to 79-76. Bailey Admudsen, who contributed 18-points off the bench, nailed her fourth three-pointer of the game to tie the game for the last time. Fresno State shot 45.5 percent from beyond the arc (10-of-22).
Fresno State, which looks to run and full-court press for the entire game, grabbed a 12-7 lead less than four minutes into the game. Walker scored a layup in transition to ignite a 10-2 Cal run, putting the Bears ahead 17-14 with 13:07 remaining in the first half.
The teams traded leads for the rest of the half. After the Bulldogs took a 29-25 edge with 6:53 to go in the opening half on a three-pointer by Amundsen, Gray-Lawson tallied four of her six first-half points to help the Bears gain a 32-29 lead.
The score was tied a 36-36 following a basket by sophomore forward/center Rama N'diaye, but Amundsen and Brown nailed three-pointers to send Fresno State into the locker room with a 42-36 advantage.
Cal shot 44.6 percent from the floor and held Fresno State to 38.7 percent.
The Bears returns to action at UC Riverside Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m.