March 9, 2012
LOS ANGELES - For the second time in program history, the California Golden Bears advanced to the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament with a 64-49 victory over the Washington State Cougars. Redshirt sophomore forward Gennifer Brandon set the single-season rebounding record after grabbing 15 rebounds to go with 13 points.
The Bears made four of their first five field goals attempts while the Cougars got off to and 0-for-6 start and an 8-0 point deficit. A pair of three-point shots from the Cougars' Sage Romberg got the Cougars back into the game and within a point, 13-12 when a floater in the lane from freshman point guard Brittany Boyd gave Cal some breathing room with 9:49 left in the first half. The basket was the first of three quick buckets by Boyd to push the Bears out to a 20-12 advantage.
The Cougars pulled within two, 22-20, with 5:30 remaining. The two teams traded misses and turnovers until the 3:24 mark when redshirt sophomore forward Gennifer Brandon caught a pass from Boyd, timed a jump, and made a clean layup. Boyd followed with a quick transition layup to put Cal up 26-20 with three minutes left in the half.
The Bears would not score again in the period with WSU closing out on a 6-0 run (a three pointer and three free throws) to tie the game, 26-26 going into the halftime break.
After the Bears turned the ball over on the first possession of the half, the Cougars got a layup on the opposite end to take their first lead of the game, 28-26. After trailing by as many as five, the Bears raced back into the lead on a steal and a fastbreak layup by junior guard Layshia Clarendon at the 12 minute mark, giving Cal a 38-37 advantage.
The Cougars tied the game, 42-42, on a freethrow and had a chance to retake the lead, but missed the second free throw. Brandon hit a free throw to put Cal back up 43-42. After a WSU turnover, Boyd found junior center Talia Caldwell in the paint to put Cal up three, 45-42. Brandon got an O-board and putback to push Cal out to a five-point lead, 47-42. After a layup cut the lead back to three, the Bears went on a 9-0 run, including a pair of layups by Brittany Boyd and a basket by sophomore guard Afure Jemerigbe, who tossed the ball into the net while falling down, to take a 56-44 lead with just over three minutes left in the game.
The Bears held on for the 64-49 victory, advancing to the Pacific Life Pac-12 Championship game where they will face the Stanford Cardinal.
"We're really good when we're playing with a lot of energy," said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "I thought in a very short prep for Washington State, we were able to take away some of their looks. Our big players made plays. Brittany and Gen in particular really like space. They like to make plays in space, and they found those gaps."
Gennifer Brandon pulled in her 14th rebound of the game at the 2:53 mark, boxing out to pull in a board after a missed free throw. It was the 318th of the season for Brandon, passing the old single-season rebounding record set by Ashley Walker during the 2007-08 season. Brandon ended the game with 15 rebounds and 13 points, her ninth double double of the year.
"Ashley Walker is one of my favorite people and players of all time," Gottlieb said. "But she probably played 38 minutes a game that year. Gen plays 25 minutes and she's going to try to be as productive in those minutes. She's an absolute monster on the glass. When she wants to do that, I don't know if there's anyone that can keep her away from doing that. So I think it's a pretty remarkable stat given the depth that we have, and that everyone's willingness to play whatever role we ask them to play."
Brittany Boyd again toyed with becoming the first Cal women's basketball player to log a triple double in a game, coming up one assist shy. She ended the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists.
The Bears, one of the top teams in the nation in rebounding margin, outrebounded the Cougars 59-25.
The Cougars were the No. 11 seed in the tournament, advancing to the semifinals after upsets over Oregon State and USC. Prior to the win over Oregon State, Washington State had never won a game in the conference tournament.
With the win, the Bears (24-8, 13-5) will take on the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (30-1, 18-0) on Saturday, March 10 at 11:30 a.m. It will be the second time in less than a week that the Bears and Cardinals have squared off as the two teams ended the regular season playing one another on Sunday, March 4. Stanford won that game, 86-61.
The Bears are looking for their first conference tournament title in program history. They have only advanced to the final one other time, falling to Stanford, 56-35 in the 2008 tournament championship game in San Jose.
The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports Net and locally on CSN Bay Area.