Jan. 14, 2002
California (5-10 overall, 0-6 Pac-10) is still in search of its first Pac-10 win of the season when the Golden Bears visit Washington (9-7, 4-3) Thursday at 7 p.m. The Bears then play at Washington State (2-15, 0-7) Saturday at 6 p.m. Dating back to last season, Cal has lost nine-straight league games. The Washington trip is a homecoming for Cal freshman Alisa Lewis, who hails from Spokane.
With seven freshmen and four sophomores on Cal's 16-player roster, head coach Caren Horstmeyer knew her team would experience some growing pains this season. However, until Saturday's 80-52 home loss to Oregon State, the Bears had been in every contest, including losing five games by six points or less. This was an uncharacteristically poor defensive outing for Cal, which entered the game leading the Pac-10 in scoring defense at 58.2 ppg.
While the Bears defense has been solid for most of the year, they have continued to struggle on the offensive end of the court. They are averaging 58.7 ppg overall and only 52.7 ppg in Pac-10 games.
Senior center Ami Forney, Cal's only returning starter from last season, leads the team in scoring (14.3 ppg), rebounding (6.3 rpg), blocks (7 total) and is second in field goal shooting at 56.9 percent. Facing double and triple teams in every game, she has been in a slight slump the last four games, posting only four points against Lipscomb and eight against Oregon State.
However, against the Beavers, Forney and the other starters played no more than 23 minutes. With the starters struggling, Horstmeyer gave the reserves a chance to see what they could do. Starting point guard Kristin Iwanaga led Cal with 10 points, her first double-digit performance since the second game of the year. Reserve forward Audrey Watler (6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block) and center Olga Volkova (5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal) provided the Bears a spark.
Watler has been one of the Bears most impressive reserves as of late. In the last four games, she has averaged 8.0 ppg, shooting 15-of-17 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the free throw line.