Nov. 24, 2006
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - No. 16 California opened the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament with a 69-52 victory over Belmont Friday afternoon at Memorial Gym. The Golden Bears improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2001-02, while the Bruins dropped to 2-2.
"We shot the ball fairly well today," said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle. "We're trying to cut down on our turnovers. Our defense picked up, and our press got Belmont a little rattled, and we got transition buckets off of that. We're getting three people, almost five people, in double figures, so we're really moving the ball around. We have to learn to maintain the level of intensity with our subs. We also need to cut down on our turnovers."
Sophomore forward/center Devanei Hampton led Cal with 15 points, and sophomore forward/center Ashley Walker posted 14 points and seven rebounds, as they had a height advantage against most of Belmont's posts. Freshman guard Lauren Greif matched her season high off 11 points and tied Walker for team-high rebounding honors.
"Posts get excited when they see smaller post players," Boyle said. "They think they're going to score right away. Teams are learning to play us and double team us. We have to learn to have more composure down there. If we don't have shots, we have to kick it back out and repost and get second chances on second touches."
The Bears stepped up their defense and erased a 9-4 deficit with a 20-2 run to go give them a 24-11 edge with eight minutes left until the break. Walker, Hampton and junior forward Krista Foster each tallied four points during the stretch and Greif hit her first of three three-pointers.
Amber Rockwell then made a trey for the Bruins for her team's first points in almost six minutes. A three-pointer by Brittany Myers brought Belmont to within nine points at 26-17 with 6:11 until halftime, but a jumper from senior guard Keanna Levy and consecutive layups from Hampton helped Cal grab its biggest lead of the game at that point at 32-17.
Belmont converted four first-half three-pointers to try to stay close to a much taller, physical Cal squad. After sinking 4-of-10 three-pointers in the first half against Cal, Belmont hit only 2-of-12 attempts over the final 20 minutes. The Bears shot 50 percent from beyond the arc (6-of-12).
Greif hit her second three-pointer of the game to send Cal into the locker room up 35-22.
Hampton converted a shot falling down in the key to lift Cal to a 41-22 edge, giving the Bears their biggest lead with 18:14 to go in the game. With several of the Bears' starters on the bench, Belmont cut the margin to 13 points at 42-29. The Bears reinserted their starters and rebuilt their edge to 51-33 following a three-pointer from Levy at the 12:14 mark.
The Bruins, who were led by 13 points from Alysha Clark, made one last push but couldn't cut the Bears' lead to under double-digits.
Levy and Foster each registered nine points for Cal. All 10 dressed players saw action for the Bears, and nine of them scored.
"Keanna and Shantrell (Sneed) gave us a big spark with their defense," Boyle said. "Keanna did a good job defensively, setting the tone with our press. I really like their energy. It's consistent, and that's what we need."
Cal shot 47.9 percent from the field, while Belmont, which faced a lot of zone defense, had a field goal percentage of 35.3. The Bears capitalized on their opportunities at the free throw line, sinking 17-of-23 shots (73.9 percent).
Cal faces No. 14 Vanderbilt Saturday in the championship game at 2 p.m. CT. The Commodores defeated Florida Atlantic in the first game today, 81-49.