Dec. 10, 2011
BERKELEY - Veteran leadership helped the California Golden Bears weather two strong comeback attempts by the Santa Clara Broncos to improve to 8-2 on the season with a 75-58 victory at Haas Pavilion on Saturday. Gennifer Brandon had her second double double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
For the second time in two days, the Bears jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a West Coast Conference school, this time with sophomore guard Afure Jemerigbe providing the five points to give Cal the early lead on Santa Clara. The Bears stretched the lead out to 9-0, keeping the Broncos off the board for the first five minutes of the game.
Back-to-back three pointers by the Broncos cut an 11-2 deficit down to 11-8 in the blink of an eye. Freshman forward Justine Hartman, stuck in traffic at the free throw line, lobbed the ball at the basket, hoping to set up a rebound opportunity for the Bears. Redshirt sophomore Gennifer Brandon battled for the board and scored the put-back to end the Santa Clara run, but it didn't end the threat.
Another pair of threes made it a 17-16 game with nine and a half left in the first half. It was another O-board and put-back, this time by junior center Talia Caldwell that ended the run. Once again, it didn't end the threat. Santa Clara's fifth three of the game tied the contest, 19-19. The Broncos took a brief lead after Ashley Armstrong converted an off-balance left-handed layup from beneath the hoop with 7:40 left in the half.
A short jumper by sophomore Eliza Pierre re-tied the game. After Santa Clara returned the favor, Brandon put the Bears back on top, 23-21, with an acrobatic move of her own, sinking the layup while falling away from the hoop.
The Bears turned up the defensive pressure with junior guard Layshia Clarendon stealing a Santa Clara inbounds pass with Pierre converting the layup to make it a 29-23 Cal advantage. A fastbreak layup by Clarendon moments later gave Cal a 31-23 lead.
The Bears, who held a 25-23 lead with just under four minutes to play in the half, ended up going into the locker room at the half with a healthy 37-25 lead.
The Broncos outside shooting got them back into the game in the first five minutes of the second half. Three three-pointers cut the deficit to six, 44-38, with 14:30 to play. After another O-board and layup by Brandon made it 46-38, the Broncos converted an and-one to cut the lead to five, 46-41, with 13:24 remaining.
After the Broncos pulled within three, 46-43, Caldwell responded by fighting for a layup, followed by a steal and a fastbreak layup by Clarendon. A Brandon block led to free throws by Caldwell. She hit the first, missed the second, but the rebound was corralled by Jemerigbe. After another Bear miss on a layup, Brandon grabbed the O-board, her seventh of the game, and got the layup. After a defensive stop, Clarendon nailed a three to put Cal back up 56-43.
Cal's 10-0 run took just two minutes and ten seconds to complete.
Another Clarendon three immediately followed by another Clarendon steal, leading to another Brandon O-board put Cal up 62-46 with 6:30 left in the game, putting the game firmly back in Cal's control.
The Broncos failed to mount a third comeback with the Bears holding on for their eighth victory of the season (8-2), handing the Broncos just their third loss (6-3).
"I think that this is one of the days that I would circle on the calendar that is a win that I am going to appreciate, because I think that we were tested," said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "I knew we were going to be tested because that team hit shots and we had to respond in a way that we really haven't yet. We haven't been down in a while, and we came back. I was particularly excited that it was the veterans who looked at each other and said that we have been here and we're better than we've ever been, we're more together than we've ever been, and we can get it done."
Gennifer Brandon had her second double double of the season and the seventh of her career with a season-high 13 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon nearly had a double double with points and offensive rebounds alone with the Bears' rebounding leader grabbing nine O-boards.
Eliza Pierre had her top scoring game of the season with 11 points. She also had four assists, three rebounds and a blocked shot.
"I thought that today with four assists and one turnover, that she had a great rhythm with when we needed to execute and when we need to attack their zone," Gottlieb said of Pierre's performance. "I thought that she made plays when she needed to and her defense, obviously, is out of this world. And to be able to go over ball screens against their really terrific guard for Santa Clara was just a huge lift for us, all the way around and if was fun for us to watch."
Layshia Clarendon had her sixth double-digit scoring effort in the last seven games with 13 points. Clarendon also had four steals, four rebounds, and two assists.
The Bears, who came into the week ranked third in the NCAA in rebounding margin, once again dominated the boards, outrebounding the Broncos, 61-34 (+27). The Bears are averaging 18.4 more rebounds per game than their opponents.
The Bears will have a full week off for finals before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 17 for the marquee match-up of the home non-conference season when they host the undefeated No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0), Cal's fourth ranked opponent of the season. The game tips at 2 p.m. Buy Tickets Now.