March 15, 2002
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By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH - Cal's players made the easy, backdoor baskets, played tough defense and made smart decisions. Who do they think they are - Ivy Leaguers?
Joe Shipp scored 20 points as California played a solid all-around game and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament with an 82-75 victory over Pennsylvania in the South Regional on Friday.
The sixth-seeded Golden Bears (23-8) will play Pittsburgh in the second round Sunday. The third-seeded Panthers beat Central Connecticut State 71-54.
Brian Wethers added 19 points for Cal, which avoided being beaten in the first round for the second straight year by holding off the 11th-seeded Quakers (25-7). Last year, Cal was eliminated in the opening round by Fresno State.
"We're a lot more focused, a lot more prepared and a lot more hungry," Wethers said. "This year, we really wanted to get a win in this tournament and make a run."
Ugonna Onyekwe, the Ivy League's player of the year, and Koko Archibong led Penn with 16 points apiece. Jeff Schiffner added 12 before fouling out.
Much of the talk leading up to tipoff had focused on the Ivy's Quakers, who had won 10 straight games and 15 of 17 to get into the tournament.
Unlike Princeton, which staged NCAA tourney upsets in 1996 and '98, Penn is a much more athletic team. And based on their regular-season wins over Georgia Tech and Temple, the Quakers became a trendy office-pool pick to knock off Cal.
However, the Bears' defense took care of that.
"We wanted to make them work for everything," Shipp said. "In the second half, we really stepped it up after we gave them too many looks in the first half."
Cal's man-to-man pressure made it tough on Penn for the entire 40 minutes, and even when they led by double digits late, the Bears didn't back down.
Penn shot just 42 percent from the floor and made 13 turnovers.
"I thought we had some good looks, but we just didn't shoot well enough," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said.
This wasn't the same Cal team which got drubbed by 46 points by Arizona on March 2, but the one which started the season 9-1 and won seven of eight in conference play before the meltdown against the Wildcats.
"Yeah, we've taken our bumps and bruises in the past," Wethers said. "But we're learned from our losses. I think this was more like the team we really are."
Leading by four points with 15:41 left, Cal's Ryan Forehan-Kelly hit a 3-pointer, and Shipp had a thunderous dunk over Archibong to cap a 9-0 run that put the Bears ahead by 13 with 12:26 remaining.
"That was huge," Cal coach Ben Braun said of Shipp's dunk, which he punctuated by walking over the legs of Archibong, who was sprawled on the floor. "He (Shipp) doesn't need to see that again. I'm probably going to turn off the TV when that play comes on."
But with Wethers the only Cal player looking to shoot, Penn crawled back with three 3-pointers and pulled within 65-59 on Archibong's two free throws with 4:16 left.
That's when Shipp brought Cal out of its offensive funk by draining an NBA-range 3-pointer on a designed play to make it 68-59 with 3 minutes to go.
The Bears got their lead up to 13, before Penn narrowed things in garbage time with some 3-pointers after Cal missed free throws.
Cal's players knew they couldn't look past the Quakers, who had beaten the Bears two years ago and lost six games by a combined 26 points this season.
Schiffner's second straight 3-pointer capped a 9-0 run, and Penn made five treys in the first 8 minutes to open an early 17-13 lead.
But Cal countered with four 3-pointers in a 4-minute span to open an eight-point lead.
Andrew Toole's layup got Penn within 36-32, but Wethers scored on a backdoor cut, and Diggs made a steal and hit a layup just before the horn to put the Bears up 40-32 at halftime.