Dec. 29, 2003
BERKELEY, Calif. - Coming off its first Pac-10 opening win in eight years and riding a five-game winning streak, California (8-2 overall, 1-0 Pac-10) concludes a six-game homestand Monday, Dec. 29 against Oregon State at 7 p.m. Cal then plays its first road games in more than a month Friday, Jan. 2 at Washington and Sunday, Jan. 4 at Washington State.
Tonight, Cal is in search of its first six-game winning streak since 1992-93 and is also looking to equal that season's 9-2 start, the program's best in 11 years. The Bears won eight straight games during the 1991-92 campaign and finished with a 20-9 mark.
Behind 17 points from senior guard Nihan Anaz, the Golden Bears held off No. 22 Oregon, 61-57, on Saturday for their first conference opening win since the 1995-96 triumph over Washington State at Harmon Gym. Meanwhile, the Beavers (6-4, 0-1) lost to No. 7 Stanford, 88-65, in their Pac-10 opener.
Cal's triumph over Oregon marked its first win over a ranked team since the Bears' last victory over the Ducks in 2001. The Bears grabbed a 68-57 win over No. 22 Oregon that year.
The key to this season's improvement (the Bears were 10-19 last year) has been Cal's offense catching up with its perennially strong defense. The Bears, who have ranked in the top five in the Pac-10 for scoring defense each of the last five years, are second this year at 59.7 ppg. After ranking ninth in the league last season in scoring at 57.6 ppg, they've improved to fifth at 70.1 ppg.
Anaz is the catalyst of the Bears' offense and defense. The product of Istanbul, Turkey, leads the club in scoring at 15.7 ppg (5th Pac-10) and in steals at 2.20 spg (6th Pac-10). Senior forward Leigh Gregory is 10th in the Pac-10 in scoring at 12.1 ppg and 14th in rebounding at 6.2 rpg after grabbing a career-best 11 boards vs. Oregon.
Different players have stepped up off the bench for Cal at critical times. With starting center Olga Volkova in foul trouble against the Ducks, 6-2 freshman center Emmelie Geraedts saw her most extensive minutes of the season (19) and posted seven points, one rebound and two blocks against a tall Ducks squad.