Nov. 28, 2003
BOULDER, Colo. - California rebounded from a poor shooting first half to claim a 66-47 victory over Lehigh in the opening round of the Coors Classic Friday night at the Coors Event Center. The Golden Bears improved to 3-0, while the Mountain Hawks fell to 0-3.
"I'm really proud of my team," said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer. "We dealt with adversity early in the game. I thought Lehigh did an outstanding job of playing their game plan early. The difference was that we weren't scoring, but we didn't let them score. "
Junior point guard Kristin Iwanaga led the Bears with a season-high 17 points, followed by senior guard Nihan Anaz with 15. The duo combined to shoot 13-of-20 from the field. Cal's bench outscored Lehigh's bench, 26-16, including a season-high eight points from senior center Olga Volkova.
"We have tremendous depth," said Horstmeyer. "That's a strength of our team. So, when you get in an environment like when you're playing in Colorado (at altitude) and playing two games in a row, uur depth was clearly a strength and that showed as the game went on, prior to halftime and into the second half."
Both teams shot poorly in the first half - Cal at 29.0 percent and Lehigh at 30.8 percent. The Mountain Hawks led 12-9 eight minutes into the game. The Bears then mounted an 11-2 run, capped by a three-point play from Iwanaga with 3:21 until halftime.
Lehigh cut the deficit to 20-16, but the Bears were able to push the tempo in the closing minutes to build its biggest lead of the half at 27-16 on an Anaz back-door layup. Lehigh's Dawn Gorynski hit a basket as time expired to make the score 27-18 at the break. Iwanaga paced the Bears with eight. Jessica DePalo, who entered the game averaging 18.5 ppg for Lehigh, had only two points at halftime and finished the game with a team high of 10.
Anaz scored Cal's first seven points of the second half, including one of Cal's four three pointers in the game, to help the Bears build a 16-point lead at 38-22 with 16:58 on the clock. Iwanaga's second three pointer of the game with 13:04 to play boosted Cal's lead to 48-26.
After Cal went up 23 points, Groynski had four points in an 8-0 Lehigh run, but 15 points with 8:44 left in the game was as close as the Mountain Hawks could get. The Bears led by as many as 24 points on an Anaz layup with about five minutes remaining.
The Bears shot 51.6 percent in the second half to finish the game at 40.3 percent. Lehigh hit 44.0 percent of its shots after halftime to finish the game at 37.3 percent, marking the third straight opponent Cal has held under 40 percent from the field.
Horstmeyer had high praise for Iwanaga and Anaz, among others, after the game.
"She's a champion," said Horstmeyer or Iwanaga. "This was the best game that I've ever seen K.I. play. When things got close, K.I. just flat out took over, not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end - steals, making plays, help when someone else is supposed to be there. Her strength, quickness and conditioning has made all the difference."
Anaz has scored in double digits in all three Cal games this year - 12 against South Carolina State and 19 against San Jose State.
"A focus for Nihan this year is consistency," said Horstmeyer. "She has been so far."
Cal showcased its transition game tonight, especially in the final 30 minutes. The Bears forced the Mountain Hawks into 31 turnovers, while only committing 18, and often capitalized on the other end of the court.
Cal will play No. 16 Colorado in the championship game tomorrow night at 8:15 p.m. MT (7:15 p.m. PT). The Buffaloes defeated Idaho State, 90-65, in the other first-round game.