Feb. 5, 2005
Berkeley, Calif.-- Fueled by the dominating inside presence of freshman center Jessica Lawson, the California Golden Bears applied the brakes to an eight-game losing streak Saturday afternoon when they posted a stirring 70-61 upset win over the visiting Arizona Wildcats at Haas Pavilion. The win also snapped a 19-game losing streak to Arizona.
With Lawson corralling a career-high 12 rebounds and scoring 19 points--which tied her career best--the Bears overcame a 48-44 deficit in the final nine minutes of the game, making their last nine free throws down the stretch to salt away the victory.
Cal, which entered the contest ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in rebound margin, out-boarded the taller Wildcats by a whopping 58-40 margin. In addition to Lawson's dozen rebounds, super-sub Renee Wright added a season-high 10 in only 23 minutes of action, while reserves Khadijah Coakley and Jacqueline Sanchez chipped in with six apiece.
"We played with a lot of intensity today," said Cal coach Caren Horstmeyer. "When we hold a team to 61 points, we should win that game because we're going to score our share of points. We rebounded so well, it helped us overcome our (20) turnovers."
But it was forward Kiki Williams that gave Horstmeyer's club a lift in the second half. After being held scoreless in the first 32 minutes of the game, the 6-1 senior erupted for nine points in the final eight minutes of the game, including a key three-pointer with 7:12 left that gave the Bears a 49-48 edge. With Williams adding a field goal and four free throws thereafter, Cal never relinquished the lead.
Meanwhile, a swarming and physical Bear defense muzzled Arizona's All-America guard Dee-Dee Wheeler, who managed a game-high 21 points but missed 17 of 24 field goal attempts, including 0-for-5 from three-point range. In fact, the Wildcats' 28.9 field goal percentage (22-of-76) for the game was a season-low for a Cal opponent.
Lawson's dynamic inside play also got Arizona's Shawntinice Polk in early foul trouble, forcing the 6-5 center to sit out 28 minutes of the game. Polk was held to eight points and two rebounds.
"Everyone can see what Jessica meant to us in this game," said teammate Williams. "Her working so hard inside helped make a lot of things happen."
Essentially, the Bears won the game on the charity stripe, making 11 more free throws than Arizona. Cal (9-13, 3-10 Pac-10), the Pac-10's leading free throw team (74 percent), sank 25 of 30 free throws. Arizona (15-8, 7-5 Pac-10) converted 14 of 17 from the line.
In registering its first victory in more than a month, California brings a degree of momentum into its next tilt against arch-rival and Pac-10 leading Stanford, which invades the Berkeley campus Friday for a 7 p.m. game.