Dec. 22, 2004
BERKELEY, Calif. -
A LOOK AT THE GOLDEN BEARS
Riding a five-game winning streak and leading the nation in three-point percentage, California (6-3) opens Pac-10 play on the road at No. 24 Oregon (7-2) Monday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. and at Oregon State (4-5) Wednesday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. The Golden Bears play five of their next seven games away from Berkeley.
Cal is in search of its second straight conference-opening win, having defeated Oregon at home, 61-57, the same date last year. That victory was the Bears' first Pac-10-opening win since 1994-95 (beat Washington State, 87-83). The last time Cal posted consecutive conference lid lifter wins was when the Bears won three straight from 1990-92.
The Bears have rallied from double-digit deficits in each of their last two games, claiming a 69-64 win over Long Beach State Dec. 12 and a 67-60 decision vs. Hampton Dec. 21. With the win over the Lady Pirates, Cal has won its last 12 home non-conference games, with 6-0 marks the last two seasons.
Four Cal players average double figure points, led by senior forward Leigh Gregory (13.3 ppg, 9th Pac-10) and senior guard Kristin Iwanaga (12.9 ppg, 10th Pac-10). Freshman center Jessica Lawson (10.1 ppg), and senior forward Kiki Williams (10.0 ppg) are also in double figures.
Cal entered the week leading the nation in three-point field goal percentage (51.1%) and didn't hurt its cause by converting 5-8 attempts (62.5 percent) against Hampton. The team average has climbed to 52.0 percent. Iwanaga began the week as the top three-point shooter in NCAA Division I at 76.0 percent and fell only slightly to 75.0 percent following a 2-of-3 performance vs. the Lady Pirates.
The Bears are shooting 46.3 percent from the floor, but what's more impressive is that their team free throw percentage has climbed to 75.7 percent after sinking 20-of-22 attempts (90.9%) against Hampton. That percentage would put them 22nd nationally at the start of the week. In 2003-04, Cal shot only 67.4 percent from the charity stripe.
Iwanaga began the week tied for the national lead in free throw shooting at 95.8 percent and may be the leader now at 96.9 percent (31-32, 8-of-8 vs. Hampton). Williams started the week tied for 14th at 91.7 percent and is now at 92.3 percent (24-of-26, 2-of-2 Hampton), giving the Bears the distinction of being the only team with two players in the top 15 nationally for free throw accuracy.
Cal is averaging 72.6 ppg (4th Pac-10) and has only once scored less 60 points this year - a 59-52 triumph over Saint Mary's. After surrendering 75.8 ppg over the first four games, the Bears' defense has steadily improved, allowing only 56.8 ppg over the last five contests and 65.2 ppg (T7th Pac-10) overall.