Dec. 2, 2007
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -An emotional Joanne Boyle let out loud cheers, stomped her stilettos and slapped hands with her players. She nervously twitched her fingers before tipoff.
No wonder California's coach was left rubbing her sore, "wrenched" left knee after her team's biggest win yet.
"I always do that for big games," Boyle said of the animated fits.
Alexis Gray-Lawson scored 16 points and No. 12 Cal won its weekend tournament by beating 23rd-ranked Vanderbilt 67-59 on Sunday, the Golden Bears' 28th straight home victory against a non-conference opponent.
"That's a great win, to have a Top-25 team on our home floor," Boyle said. "I think we're playing great basketball to go into Rutgers."
Yes, the Bears (7-1) now must hit the road to play at Princeton on Saturday and then at fifth-ranked Rutgers on Dec. 10 - perhaps with the return of reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year Devanei Hampton, who is recovering from Nov. 9 arthroscopic surgery on her right knee.
"We're going to work her in this week and see what happens," Boyle said.
Rama N'diaye had 16 points and eight rebounds in another standout game for MVP honors after the 6-foot-5 sophomore center from Senegal recorded career highs of 16 points and 18 boards Friday night against Saint Mary's.
Ashley Walker added 17 points and nine boards, just missing her seventh double-double in eight games and Natasha Vital had six assists for the Bears, who let the Commodores creep back in it late. Lauren Lueders' 3-pointer with 35 seconds left cut Cal's lead to 63-57.
Despite Boyle's high-energy antics, her team methodically took care of business against a lower-ranked but dangerous opponent. Boyle's lone complaint: 16-for-29 free-throw shooting.
N'diaye has done a fantastic job filling in for Hampton, showing major strides from her freshman season a year ago. Then, the language barrier still caused constant confusion as she learned English after playing high school basketball in Japan.
"I feel good. I didn't expect it. I'm so happy," she said with a smile. "Last year I didn't understand what the coach was saying."
In fact, N'diaye asked Walker just in April what "hard work" meant. N'diaye's definition now: "It's just like take every rebound I can get on offense and defense and play hard."
After struggling on defense Friday, Cal did a better job both in the perimeter and in the paint to fluster Vanderbilt (7-2). The cold-shooting Commodores managed only seven first-half field goals and scored their fewest points in a half all season on the way to a season-low total of 59.
Freshman Merideth Marsh had 12 points, five rebounds and six assists in her second start for the Commodores, who struggled in all facets only four days after a 68-55 upset of No. 11 Duke.
Cal led by as many as 22 in the second half for its first victory over a ranked opponent this season after losing at Baylor on Nov. 25. The Bears have been 6-0 in non-Pac-10 games in each of the past four seasons and haven't lost a non-conference contest at Haas Pavilion since a 66-47 defeat to Colorado on Dec. 8, 2002.
Vandy leading scorer Christina Wirth missed her first four shots and didn't score until her 3-pointer 4:01 before broke a scoring drought of 4 minutes, 39 seconds by the Commodores, and she finished eight below her average with seven on 2-for-11 shooting.
"I think we came out hesitating," Wirth said. "I don't think anybody knows why. Part of it was our shots weren't falling. It's hard. We had a big win against Duke and really did celebrate it and forget about it so we could focus on this weekend. I think should have done better job getting up for a game like this against a ranked team."
Vandy began the game 3-for-16 and missed six of its first seven 3-point tries, falling behind quickly after Cal came out strong on both ends.
Commodores center and lone senior Liz Sherwood, the Southeastern Conference's field-goal percentage leader the last two seasons, came in having hit 51 of 69 shots so far and made all three of her baskets Sunday.
Cal didn't have its first foul until Gray-Lawson was whistled at 10:19, then she dished the ball to Walker for a score the next time down to make it 17-7.
Walker was called for back-to-back travels at one point in the first half and Cal overcame 11 turnovers by shooting 61 percent on the way to a 36-19 halftime lead, outscoring the Commodores 12-2 over the final 2:36.
The Bears had Saturday off after beating Saint Mary's on Friday night, while Vandy faced the Gaels on Saturday and played on consecutive days.
It marked the fourth meeting between the schools after the Commodores won 67-55 last season in Nashville, Tenn.
The tournament was sponsored by the Contra Costa Times.