Dec. 28, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -
The California Golden Bears got their first road victory of the season, holding on for a 65-61 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini. DeNesha Stallworth had her fifth double double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Cal got on the scoreboard four seconds into the game on a layup from sophomore forward DeNesha Stallworth. Freshman guard Lindsay Sherbert scored Cal's next seven points, keeping the Bears just ahead of the Illini, 9-6. Illinois twice tied the game before taking their first lead of the contest, 15-13, with 8:32 remaining. The two teams battled back and forth on the court, trading the lead seven times in the next three minutes. Cal retook the lead, 25-23, on a jump hook in the paint from sophomore center Talia Caldwell. Caldwell launched a 10-0 run to close out the half. The Bear defense kept the Illini from hitting a basket in the final 5:56 of the half to send Bears into the break leading 35-25.
The second half began with both teams trading buckets and then both going through simultaneous scoring droughts, with Cal leading by as many as 12 and as few as eight. The Illini began drawing fouls, chipping away at the lead at the free throw line to pull within 8. The Illini halted their scoring drought, hitting a three pointer a jumper later, to make it a three-point game, 44-41, with 11 minutes remaining. Cal ended a six minute second half span without a field goal with a put back by Talia Caldwell to make it 46-42. Two minutes later, the Illini's leading scorer dropped in a jumper to make it a two point game, 48-46, with 7:38 remaining. Eliza Pierre rattled in a basket to end the Illini run and extend the Cal lead back to four, 50-46, with just under seven to play. A jumper by sophomore guard Layshia Clarendon with just over six minutes left extended the Cal lead back to six, 52-46, and sapped the momentum from the Fighting Illini.
The Illini found the momentum again with just under three to play. Illinois got an offensive put back to pull within four, 54-50. After Cal got called for a charge, the Illini got Cal whistled again for a defensive infraction, putting them at the line and within two points, 54-52. A three pointer by Lindsey Sherbert gave Cal some breathing room, 57-52. After a defensive stop, Caldwell made two free throws to give Cal a 59-52 lead with 1:10 remaining. After Cal forced Illinois to turn the ball over, the Illini began fouling with a minute left on the clock. Cal extended the lead back out to 10, 62-52, at the free throw line. The Illini never really challenged in the final minute with Cal holding on for the 65-61 victory.
"Free throws. We hit our free throws," replied Stallworth when asked what they key was to Cal's victory. "We just stayed together the last three minutes of the game. Coach made some real good calls and we executed pretty well."
Stallworth scored a game-high 21 points, her fourth performance of twenty or more points this season. She coupled that with 10 rebounds, giving her the fifth double double of her season. Sherbert ended the game with 19 points, her second-highest outpouring of the season. Caldwell had eight points with 13 rebounds, her third double-digit rebound performance of the season.
"I am happy to come out with a win," said head coach Joanne Boyle. "We finally win a game on the road!"
The Bears end the non-conference portion of their schedule with an 8-3 mark. The victory was their first road win of the season. The Bears also had a neutral court W over UT Arlington in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
Cal will be back home on Sunday, Jan. 2 when they open Pac-10 play at the Battle of the Bay when they host the Stanford Cardinal. The game, which will air nationally on Fox Sports Net and locally on Comcast Bay Area, tips off at 12:30 p.m. It is the first Cal Kids Day of the season with general admission tickets for youth 12th grade and younger just $1. Tickets are available through the Cal Athletic Ticket Office by calling 1-800-GO-BEARS or online on CalBears.com.