Dec. 21, 2002
MORAGA, Calif. - California battled back from a 13-point second-half deficit to take the lead three times before losing to Saint Mary's 71-64 Saturday afternoon at McKeon Pavilion.
"Saint Mary's deserves a lot of credit tonight," said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer. "They outhustled us and outplayed us, but I'm still so excited about our team. We do so many great things, but we let Saint Mary's set the tempo tonight from an aggression standpoint. We wanted the game. They wanted it more."
This was the Bears (3-4) first game since Dec. 8 due to final exams and their first road contest of the season. The Gaels improved to 5-4, as they became the first team to post 70 or more points on the Bears in the last 12 games, dating back to last season.
Junior guard Nihan Anaz paced the Bears with a Cal career-high 12 points, all of which came in the second half, in her first start of the season and second game overall with the team. Sophomore forwards Jacqueline Sanchez and Leigh Gregory each added 10 points. Sanchez's points were the most she's posted as a Bear.
"The Nihan you saw in the final six or seven minutes is the Nihan we know we will see," said Horstmeyer, "but it's going to take some time in terms of playing with the team and chemistry wise. She's an outstanding player, and one we know we can go to."
Saint Mary's opened the second half with an 8-0 run to build a two-point halftime lead at 37-27 with 16:18 left in the contest. Following two three pointers from Katy Davis, the Gaels took their biggest lead of the game at 13 at 47-34 with 12:53 to play.
Cal's full court press helped it go on a 15-2 run over the next 6:52, tying the game at 49-49 following a three-point basket from Anaz. Sophomore forward Kiki Williams added four of her seven points off the bench during the comeback run. The Bears secured their first second half lead at 52-51 on Sanchez's three-point play with 5:03 left. Entering the final media timeout with 3:43 on the clock, Cal held its final lead of the game at 57-56.
After the timeout, the Gaels tallied six unanswered points, and the Bears were forced to foul and utilize their final two timeouts down the stretch. With Saint Mary's up 67-64 with 21 ticks on the clock, Davis missed two free throws, which opened the door for Cal to possibly tie the game, but Triola Jackson corralled a critical offensive rebound and put back to seal the victory for the Gaels.
The Bears usually sound defense allowed four Gaels to post double-figure points, with Jackson leading the charge with 17. Davis and Julie Morris each contributed 16, while Danielle Ferris had 14.
Cal jumped out to a 10-6 lead five minutes into the game, but then their offense went cold for the next six minutes, allowing Saint Mary's to build an 18-14 lead. Sanchez ignited a 7-0 Cal run with five of her seven first-half points, putting the Bears up 21-18. Behind five points from Jackson, the Gaels entered the locker room with a 29-27 advantage. Gregory tallied all 10 of her points in the first half to pace Cal.
Cal returns home next week to open the Pac-10 season Friday, Dec. 27 against Arizona at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. Sunday, the Bears entertain Arizona State at 2 p.m.