Nov. 2, 2003
BERKELEY, Calif. - The California women's basketball team opened the 2003-04 season with an 81-72 exhibition win over the Bay Area Pro-Am Sunday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.
"We saw players step up late when we needed to make shots," said Caren Horstmeyer, who enters her fourth season at the helm at Cal. "In the past, we haven't had players step up and make shots down the stretch. Our players are more confident taking their shots."
Senior guard LaTasha O'Keith led a quartet of Golden Bears in double figures with 16 points and contributed game highs for rebounds (8) and steals (4). Junior forward Kiki Williams added 15 points, including a critical five points in crunch time. Junior guard Kristin Iwanaga had 12 points, including five in the closing minutes, and junior forward Leigh Gregory posted 10.
"Tasha has come back with a renewed spirit," said Horstmeyer. "I give her a lot of credit after struggling during her junior year and being able to play with passion. She's a sparkplug. She's extremely coachable, and she's having fun. That's projected in the way she's playing."
Cal led 67-55 following an Iwanaga jumper with 9:03 to play. The Pro-Am went on a 12-2 run to close the gap to two with 3:17 left on the clock. Williams responded with her third three pointer of the game, and Iwanaga drained her second trey to increase Cal's margin to 75-67 with 2:21 remaining. The Bay Area squad, which was comprised of former collegiate players, couldn't get any closer than five points the rest of the game.
"I was very pleased with Kiki today," said Horstmeyer. "She feels her teammates have confidence in her, and she has confidence in her teammates."
The Bears raced to a 19-6 lead in about the first six minutes of the game behind five points from O'Keith. It took the Pro-Am almost nine minutes to post two field goals. Cal built its biggest lead of the contest at 23-9 following two made free throws by freshman guard Keanna Levy with 11:28 until halftime. The Pro-Am got as close as eight after that, but the Bears entered the locker room with a 47-35 lead.
Krista Knapp paced four Pro-Am players in double-figure points with 19. Imani Dunbar contributed 15, followed by Sarah Richen with 12 and Danielle Golay with 11.
Cal shot 40.7 percent for the game and held the Bay Area team to 39.4 percent. The Bears capitalized on their opportunities at the foul line, converting 81.8 percent (27-33) of their chances, and utilized a 49-34 rebounding edge.
"The players are confident in the (new) offense," said Horstmeyer. "Their conditioning and their strength is so much improved. They feel better about their bodies, so they feel better mentally. They have worked together as a team quite a bit. I think that's what happening and that we're veterans."
After two weeks of practice, Cal hosts Team Concept in its final exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.