December 29, 1998
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - After remaining within striking distance for three quarters of the game, California saw its five-game winning streak snapped with a 96-70 loss to 20th-ranked Florida Tuesday at the State Farm Classic Championship in Gainesville, Fla. Freshman center Shavaki Jackson came away with her first of likely many all-tournament selections as she paced the Bears with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
Cal's record drops to 6-3, while Florida improves to 11-4. The Bears finished the month of December 5-1. Against ranked opponents, the Bears are 1-2 this season. In today's loss to Florida, Cal trailed only 40-33 at the half and against No. 17 Virginia (Nov. 28), the Cavaliers clung to a 32-30 at the intermission before winning 70-55.
Florida shot 52 percent from the floor, including 54 percent (7-13) from beyond the arc. Cal shot a respectable 45 percent from the floor, but helped Florida's scoring punch by committing a season-high 25 turnovers. Cal head coach Marianne Stanley switched her team from a man-to-man defense to a zone to contain the Gators hot hand, but everything seemed to fall for the Gators, especially when they made key scoring runs.
"I thought Florida had an outstanding offensive game," said Stanley. "No matter what defense we threw at them, it didn't seem to matter. Everything they threw up went in. I didn't think our defense was particularly bad, but we can do better."
Down 40-33 at the half, the Bears got out of the second half gate quickly, cutting the Lady Gators lead to three at 42-39 with a Courtney Johnson three-pointer with 16:31 remaining in the game. The Gators answered with a 7-0 run, keyed by a Talatha Bingham three-pointer, extending their lead to 49-39 at the 15:20 mark.
The lead fluctuated between 10 and 14 points until Florida made its move with the score 58-48 at 11:44. Reserve forward Tonya Washington propelled Florida to a 20-point cushion at the 9:10 mark, tallying seven of her game-high 25 points (also 11 boards) during the Gators 12-2 run. Cal had several players in foul trouble and was unable to make another surge. The Gators 26-point victory margin matched their largest lead of the game.
The first half was reminiscent of Cal's resiliency it showed against Virginia. After Cal held its last lead of the game at 6-5 at 16:17, Florida went on an 18-6 run to grab its biggest lead of the half at 23-12 at the 9:14 mark. The Bears cut the deficit to three at 32-29 with 2:12 left on the clock, paced by six points each from Jackson and fellow freshman Latifa Lewis, who finished with career-highs nine points and three rebounds in only seven minutes. As they would later in the game when the Bears fought back to within three, the Gators responded with an 8-0 run to lead by 11 again at 40-29.
Cal was not rattled as the Bears posted the last four points of the half. Jackson led Cal with seven points at the break.
Junior forward Paige Bowie netted 13 points and a team-high six assists and Johnson contributed 10 points. Other double figure scorers for the Gators included Tiffany Travis with 22 and tournament MVP Brandi McCain with 15 to go with her nine assists.
Florida edged Cal on the boards 41-40, but Cal sophomore forward Lauren Ashbaugh tied her season high of 11 boards versus Virginia.
A new season begins for the Bears this Saturday (Jan. 2) as they open Pac-10 play at Oregon at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4, Cal travels to Oregon State for a 7 p.m. tip-off, as well.