Dec. 4, 2003
BERKELEY, Calif. -
A LOOK AT THE GOLDEN BEARS
Coming off two close road losses against top 20 teams, California (3-2) returns home to host the 13th-annual Oakland Tribune Classic Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 6-7 at Haas Pavilion. Saturday, Cal welcomes Bay Area Girl Scouts, and Sunday the first 300 youths will receive Beanie Bears while supplies last. The tournament opens Saturday with Wichita State (2-1) facing Tulane (1-3), a 2003 NCAA Tournament team, at 1 p.m., followed by Cal against Miami (OH) (1-2) at 3 p.m. Games are at 1 and 3 p.m. again on Sunday, with the Bears to play Wichita State or Tulane at 3 p.m. in the championship or consolation contest.
Cal has never faced any of the teams in this year's Oakland Tribune Classic and each team also is making its first trip to the Oakland Tribune Classic. The Golden Bears are looking to win their tournament for the first time since 1998 when they upset No. 9 Colorado State, 80-75, in the championship game at Kaiser Arena in Oakland.
The Bears are coming off a three-game road trip which saw them defeat Lehigh 66-47 and fall to No. 16 Colorado, 74-63, and to No. 5 Texas Tech, 76-69. After Cal played Texas Tech (7-0) closer than any team has so far this season, Lady Raiders' head coach Marsha Sharp said, "Cal is the best team we've played so far this season." Texas Tech has beaten No. 18 UC Santa Barbara, 68-41, and No. 15 Rutgers, 73-45.
The recent results have earned Cal votes in the Associated Press (four votes) and USA Today-ESPN-WBCA Coaches (1 vote) polls. The last time Cal received votes in either poll was after losing by six points to No. 13 Georgia in the 2002 Oakland Tribune Classic title game.
Cal is off to a strong start offensively. The Bears rank second in the Pac-10 for scoring at 73.2 points per game after being ranked ninth in that category at 57.6 ppg in 2002-03. The team's scoring defense is at 62.2 ppg (8th Pac-10) after giving up 64.2 ppg (5th Pac-10) last year. The improved scoring average is tied to a new offense and better shooting. Cal finished the 2002-03 season with a 37.8 FG percentage and have seen that climb to the second-best percentage in the conference at 46.9.
Providing the scoring punch on the perimeter have been guards Nihan Anaz (16.0 ppg, 8th Pac-10), Kristin Iwanaga (9.0 ppg) and LaTasha O'Keith (8.6 ppg). On the inside, forward Leigh Gregory (13.0 ppg, 11th Pac-10) and reserve center Olga Volkova (5.4 ppg) lead the way. Gregory leads the team and ranks seventh in the Pac-10 in rebounding at 7.4 rpg.