March 27, 2010
The California Golden Bears advanced to the semifinals of the 2010 Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) with a decisive 76-50 victory over the BYU Cougars. Freshman DeNesha Stallworth scored 26 points to lead the Bears. Senior Alexis Gray-Lawson scored 19 points with three assists and five rebounds.
The Bears got out to a solid start, taking an early 10-point lead on the sluggish-looking BYU Cougars. Cal held a 12-2 lead with 15:47 left in the first half. The Cougars found their long range shot, hitting five threes, to come back to tie the game 28-28 with 1:12 left in the first half. The Bears used a long range shot of their own, one coming from senior guard Natasha Vital, to retake the lead, 31-28. Senior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson drove the lane, laying the ball in with nine seconds left in the first half to send Cal to the locker room with a 33-28 advantage. Gray-Lawson and Stallworth combined for 20 of Cal's first 26 points. Stallworth finished the first half with 12. Gray Lawson scored 10.
The Cougars used the long ball to stay in the game early in the second half. After Cal led by as many as eight, BYU hit a three pointer with just under 15 minutes left to play to make it a three-point game, 38-35. It was as close as they would get. Senior guard Natasha Vital answered with a trey. Jumpers by Stallworth and Gray-Lawson put Cal up double digits, 47-37, two and a half minutes later. The Bears defense began dominating the road-weary Cougars as Cal outscored BYU 29-13 in the final 12 minutes to earn the trip to the semifinals.
"I feel like we have been playing some of our best basketball," said head coach Joanne Boyle. "It has been tough with the travel, just like other teams have faced, but I think we are at a really good point right now - really focused on what we are doing. It was a good win. To see the progression we are making has been great for us in postseason."
DeNesha Stallworth scored a game-high 26 points, going 10-for16 from the field. She also had her fourth double double of the season with 11 rebounds. She also had three steals. Freshman center Talia Caldwell had six points, two assists, and 11 rebounds. Alexis Gray-Lawson scored 19 points with three assists and five rebounds.
"I won (what is likely) my last game at Haas," said a smiling Gray-Lawson after the game. "That is what I am thinking now. I won my last game at Haas. All of my friends and family were here. Everybody came out to support us tonight. And I am on my way to my first Final Four. Can't beat that!"
Cal will head to Normal, Illinois to take on the Illinois State Redbirds on Thursday, April 1 at 5:00 Pacific Time (7:00 local Central Time). The winner of that game will advance to the WNIT Championship, taking on the winner of Wednesday's game between Miami and Michigan.
Live streaming audio of Thursday's semifinal game will be available through CalBears.com.