Jan. 31, 2007
BERKELEY, Calif. - Sophomore forward/center Ashley Walker recorded 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 21 California to a 58-51 victory over UC Riverside Wednesday night at Haas Pavilion. With their 24th straight home non-conference victory, the Golden Bears have equaled their best start in school history through 22 games at 17-5 (7-4 Pac-10), while the Highlanders, who are in first in the Big West, fell to 12-9 (6-1).
The 1983-84 Bears were also 17-5 after 22 games.
In addition to registering her eighth double-double of the season and 16th of her career, Walker dished off five assists, matched her career high of five steals and had two blocks in 40 minutes of action. Sophomore forward/center Devanei Hampton paced Cal with 14 points, and freshman guard Natasha Vital contributed a career-high 13 points in 40 minutes.
After Cal led 31-25 at the half behind 11 points from Vital, UC Riverside closed to within 35-30 behind five of Amber Cox's team-high 13 points. Freshman guard Lauren Greif drained a three-pointer to begin an 11-2 run that gave Cal a 46-32 edge with 11:17 remaining on the clock. Walker and Hampton each tallied four points to give the Bears' their biggest lead of the game.
Over the next six minute, UC Riverside whittled Cal's margin down to 50-48 by overcoming Cal's pressure defense that rattled them early on. Reserve Brittany Waddell tallied all seven of her points to lead the Highlanders' surge, and she and Cox each drained a three-pointer.
Hampton made a layup to end a 7-0 UC Riverside spurt, but Roney Friend grabbed a rebound and scored to bring her team back to within 52-50 with 4:35 to play. Hampton corralled a key rebound on the Bears' next possession, was fouled and sank two free throws. Seyream Gbewonyon, who recorded 11 points overall, kept it a one-possession game for UC Riverside at 54-51 by hitting 1-of-2 free throws.
UC Riverside had a chance to tie the game, but Walker secured her fourth steal of the contest with 1:08 on the clock, allowing Cal to regain its composure. Walker notched her fifth steal with 12 ticks remaining, and she and senior guard Keanna Levy secured the win for Cal by hitting two free throws each in the final 40 seconds.
Cal jumped out to a 9-2 lead following a layup by Hampton with 16:47 left in the first half, but UC Riverside answered with an 8-0 run to go ahead 10-9.
The guards then took over for Cal, helping the Bears claim a 21-12 lead with 6:40 to play in the opening half. Vital converted two free throws to ignite a 12-2 Bears' run, which included six points and a steal from Vital, four points from Greif and two points and two steals from Levy.
The Highlanders cut the gap to five points before Vital hit a long jumper to begin a 5-0 run that gave the Bears' their first double-digit lead at 26-16 with under three minutes remaining in the half. Walker, who had only three points in the first half, posted her first point of the half to put Cal ahead by 10. UC Riverside was able to double team Walker with Hampton sitting on the bench for the final 12 minutes of the first half with two fouls.
Both teams shot 39.6 percent from the field for the game. Cal, which is 12-0 when holding opponents under 60 points, helped its cause by committing only 14 turnovers and holding a 35-30 rebounding advantage.
Cal returns to Pac-10 play at No. 8 Stanford (18-3, 11-0 Pac-10) Sunday, Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. That game can be seen live on Fox Sports Net. p>