Dec. 7, 2003
BERKELEY, Calif. - California held off a late Tulane run to win the 13th-annual Oakland Tribune Classic title, 66-61, Sunday afternoon at Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears improved to 5-2 for the first time since the 1999-00 season when they opened the campaign with the same record. The Green Wave, which has competed in nine straight NCAA Tournaments, fell to 2-4.
"We're not even looking at the magnitude (of the win)," said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer. "We're trying to do the little things - play great defense, work our offense and good things will happen. It's great to win our tournament and to beat a team like Tulane who has been an NCAA team the nine straight years. They're extremely athletic and very talented. It's a good win."
Cal senior guard Nihan Anaz earned tournament MVP honors after tying her career high of 22 points to lead all players today. She also added six rebounds, five assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Anaz tied for team-high honors with 18 points in Saturday's opening round 81-72 victory over Miami (OH). Junior forward Leigh Gregory joined Anaz on the all-tournament team with 16 points.
"When you have a player like (Anaz), that can make your team go, you have a chance (to do well)," said Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton.
Behind 16 first-half points from Anaz, Cal led 34-22 at halftime and held Tulane to just 33.3 percent shooting, while hitting 50 percent of its shots. Following an Anaz layup, Cal led by as many as 13 points in the opening period at 25-12 with 4:23 until the break. Tulane's only lead of the game was at 2-0.
The Bears continued their momentum into the second half with five different players scoring in a 13-5 run over the first seven-plus minutes. Cal built a 20-point lead at 47-27 with 12:17 to play in the game on a layup by Gregory on a pass from Olga Volkova. Unfortunately, just seconds before Volkova's pass, she sprained her left ankle and didn't return to the game.
Tulane then mounted an 18-3 run to cut the deficit to 50-45 with 5:50 on the clock. All-tournament team pick Kelly Nadeau led the comeback effort with eight of her 10 points. The Green Wave got as close as four points with 1:42 to play with its second three-pointer of the game. The Bears made five of six free throws down the stretch to claim their first Oakland Tribune Classic championship since their 1998 victory (80-75) over No. 9 Colorado State at Kaiser Arena in Oakland.
"This win is important because it became a close game," said Gregory. "We pulled it out at home which we might not have done last year. Not focusing on the win has made us focus on the things that are more important and the end result is the win."
"Down the stretch, we played really smart," added Anaz.
Cal shot 53.3 percent overall and held Tulane to 41.3 percent. The Bears withstood the Green Wave's pressure defense to commit a season-low 13 turnovers.
Lakethia Hampton recorded a double-double - 17 points and 13 rebounds - for Tulane to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Rounding out the all-tournament squad were Angela Buckner from Wichita State and Colleen Day from Miami.
In the consolation game, Miami (2-3) needed overtime to defeat Wichita State (2-3), 82-78. It marked the tournament's first overtime contest since 1997. Day led the RedHawks with 23 points, and Cindi Merrill added 20. Buckner paced the Shockers with 18 points.
Cal is off for final exams until the Bears entertain Nevada on Friday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.