March 4, 2005
SAN JOSE, Calif.-- No. 8-seed California won its third straight Pac-10 Tournament opener with a 70-52 victory over No. 9-seed Washington State Friday night at the HP Pavilion. The Golden Bears improve to 11-17 overall with their largest margin of victory since a 65-41 triumph over Tennessee Tech Dec. 5, 2004, while the Cougars drop to 6-22.
"I thought both teams played with a tremendous amount of energy, fire and competitiveness," Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer said. "I'm proud of our players to be able to step up what they were doing in transition and rebounding. I thought we did a good job switching defenses and getting the ball to people that we needed to score."
Senior forward Leigh Gregory and senior guard Kristin Iwanaga - both honorable mention All-Pac-10 picks - paced Cal with 16 points apiece, and freshman center Jessica Lawson added 12 points. Junior forward Renee Wright posted 10 points off the bench after leading the Bears with 16 points in last year's 82-57 triumph over Oregon in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament.
"Leigh showed an inside-outside game," Horstmeyer added, "and K.I. (Iwanaga) pushed the ball in transition. And, both of them were leaders on the floor. I felt that made the difference in the game."
Cal went ahead 47-37 on one of Iwanaga's second of three three-pointers with 12:46 to play in the game. The Cougars cut the deficit to 47-42 with under 11 minutes to go before Cal took control of the game for good.
The Bears threw a 21-5 run at the Cougars over the next nine minutes to secure their largest lead of the game at 68-47. Cal's zone defense effectively held WSU to 30 percent shooting in the second half. Iwanaga had five points, and Gregory and Lawson tallied four points each in Cal's decisive spurt.
Washington State led 7-5 before Cal went on a 9-0 run to grab a 14-7 edge with 10:57 to play in the first half following Jacqueline Sanchez' only three of the season and a basket from Lawson.
With the Cougars ahead 20-19 with under six minutes to play, the Bears went on an 8-0 ignited by three-pointers from Wright and Iwanaga to take a 27-20 lead. Cal, which entered the game as the 15th-best three-point shooting team in the nation, hit 50 percent from beyond the arc (7-14) and 45.8 percent overall.
After leading 29-28 at the half, the Bears built a 38-30 advantage on a post move by Gregory with 17:04 left in the game.
Sophomore guard Sarah Pool dished off eight assists for Cal for the second time in the last three games.
Behind nine rebounds from Kiki Williams Cal held a 37-32 advantage on the glass, marking the fourth time in the last five games that the Bears have won the battle of the boards.
Over the last three games, Cal's opponents have averaged only 56.7 ppg, compared to the Bears' season scoring defense of 71.0.
Charmaine Jones led WSU with 12 points, and Keisha Moore posted 11.
Cal battles No. 2-ranked Stanford, the top seed, Saturday at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals for the third straight year. The Cardinal was ranked No. 8 and No. 11, respectively, entering the tournament the last two years. The last Bear victory over the Cardinal came in 2001 (82-73) at Maples Pavilion.
"It's a great opportunity to go against the No. 2 team in the nation," Gregory said. "Might as well play them again. We're going to focus on ourselves and make sure our game is ready, our defense is ready. We can only control ourselves. We're going to try to take care of business on our end and see how the game goes."