May 31, 2008
DAKAR, Senegal - Junior guard Natasha Vital posted 19 points, including the final four points of the game, to lead the California women's basketball team to a 65-63 win over the Senegal National team Saturday evening at Stadium Marius Ndiaye. The Golden Bears finished their African tour with a 3-0 record.
Senior forward Ashley Walker tallied 15 points. Forward Krista Foster, who was a senior during the 2007-08 season, contributed 14 points and six rebounds (four offensive). Vital also hauled in six boards.
Cal shot 39.5 percent from the floor but capitalized on its opportunities at the free throw line, sinking 19-of-27 attempts (70.4 percent).
After a two-hour bus ride, an hour plus clinic out in the hot Senegalese sun and a mad rush to hop in taxis to get to the game after the bus broke down, Cal knew they were in for a tough test from the Senegalese team.
Several hundred fans attended the game, including Cal junior forward/center Rama N'diaye's family, who hails from Dakar. The adverse conditions didn't stop once the game began. The scoreboard and the shot clock didn't work. A gentleman kept score on a chalkboard across the court and the shot clock was kept at the scorer's table.
Cal had several shot-clock violations and never knew when a quarter was ending but held on and fought through things to come out with a win.
The officiating was very different than in Tunisia. The refs were quick to blow their whistles and called an intentional foul on Vital, as she collided with a Senegalese player while they were both going for a loose ball. In the United States, a loose ball foul at the most would have likely been called, but Senegal shot free throws and got to keep the ball. The technical foul was called a "full body contact" foul, which was new terminology to the Bears.
Solid post play was key for Cal in the first quarter. Walker and Foster had six first-quarter points each, and sophomore guard/forward Kelsey Adrian chipped in four points to help the Bears jump out to a 22-9 lead.
The Senegalese team began to find its rhythm and its way to the free throw line in the second quarter, outscoring Cal, 26-17, but the Bears still led, 39-35, at halftime. Senegal's Diuof Didio had 11 second-quarter points, including four points from the line, as she was able to penetrate and draw fouls. Vital helped Cal hang on to the lead by converting three of four three-point attempts in the second quarter.
The third quarter was a tight struggle, with Senegal holding a 16-15 advantage. Senegal's Awa Gueye scored six third-quarter points to keep pace with senior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson, who paced Cal with her first six points of the game in that quarter. Gray-Lawson, who led Cal in scoring in both games against the Tunisia National team, saw limited playing time against Senegal in the first half due to foul trouble.
Cal entered the fourth quarter up 53-51 but didn't score a basket until around the four-minute mark. Fortunately, Senegal was struggling, as well. Both team traded turnovers and missed shots until Walker went down with cramps. The time in the sun finally caught up to one of the Bears. Walker left the game at approximately the seven- minute mark, and Senegal went on a 10-0 spurt to take an eight-point lead at 63-55. That was the last basket Senegal would get. Cal's defense was solid down the stretch, and the Bears continued to own the offensive glass.
Senior forward Shantrell Sneed was fouled on a putback and made one free throw to cut the lead to seven. Walker returned to the game and although she didn't score, her presence was noticeable as she was dominant on the defensive end with a couple signature blocks, and effective on the offensive end as she continued to command a double team, which free up other players. Foster's presence was also noticeable. She grabbed a huge offensive rebound after a missed three-pointer by Vital and finished with a hook shot in the lane to cut the lead to five at 63-58 with 2:30 to go.
Cal applied full-court pressure to continue rattling the opponent and keep them scoreless. On the next offensive possession, Foster grabbed another offensive board and was fouled as she went up. She made both free throws to make it 63-60. After getting a defensive stop, Cal then received its own technical call from the officials when a player grabbed Gray-Lawson's jersey as she dribbled past her. Gray-Lawson made one free throw to cut the lead to 63-61.
Cal turned the ball over after the technical but then forced a turnover on the other end as Senegal attempted to score off of a pick and roll. Although the Bears were trailing by two, Vital was fouled as she dribbled to the corner, and she made both free throws to tie the game at 63.
The Bears continued to press and forced a bad shot on the defensive end. Cal entered the ball into Walker at the high post with about 16 seconds remaining in the game. Walker drove to the basket, was fouled on the play, but missed both free throws. Gray-Lawson was there to coral the offensive board. She was blocked on the first attempt at a putback and fouled on her second but nothing was called.
Vital rebounded Gray-Lawson's miss and was fouled with six seconds left on the clock. She made both free throws, and Cal held on for the victory.