Nov. 18, 2007
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Alexis Gray-Lawson gave herself quite a scare when she hit the ground grabbing her knee with 4 seconds left -- not to mention her teammates, coaches and everybody else in Haas Pavilion thrilled to have her back after an injury-shortened season a year ago.
Gray-Lawson scored 10 of her 11 points over the final 6:40 and No. 12 California escaped with a hard-fought 52-44 victory over New Mexico on Sunday in its home opener.
The animated guard received a warm ovation from the crowd during pregame introductions, then silenced the arena when she fell and appeared to hurt her surgically repaired right knee. She was eventually able to walk off the court on her own accompanied by trainers, then underwent tests that showed she was all right.
"I'm OK. Just a little scared," she said.
Gray-Lawson's 3-pointer with 6:40 remaining put Cal ahead 38-37, then she later tied the game at 42 with a 15-footer. She hit a key baseline 3 with 1:02 remaining, a pair of free throws at 32 seconds, and wound up with 11 points.
Ashley Walker scored back-to-back baskets in the final 3 minutes and finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds despite foul trouble. Lauren Greif added 14 points, four rebounds and four assists for the unbeaten Golden Bears (3-0), who were far from spectacular but did enough right down the stretch.
"That's two games in a row," coach Joanne Boyle said of Gray-Lawson's clutch play. "If she's going to save that for the last five minutes, I'm not going to let her shoot. Lexi hits big shots."
Dionne Marsh scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half for the Lobos (3-1), who forced Cal into 16 turnovers but shot only 32 percent -- including 2-of-17 from 3-point range. Jessica Kielpinski added 10 points, four boards and three assists.
Walker, the team's leading scorer and rebounder last season, grabbed four rebounds in the first 4 1/2 minutes but then was quiet until crunch time.
"They're talented players and if you give them enough looks they're going to knock them down," New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said. "We played good defense. They created some problems late with their outside shooting and they didn't get hot until late. We shot 25 times than they did, turned it over seven times fewer than they did and still got beat. They're a very good team and made us play at a high level."
Cal, picked to finish third in the Pac-10 behind seven-time defending conference champion Stanford and Arizona State, committed 10 turnovers in the first half and settled for a halftime tie at 20 despite outshooting the Lobos 47 percent to 28 percent.
Both teams came out cold, Cal shooting 3-for-9 to New Mexico's 3-of-14
But Boyle, Pac-10 Coach of the Year last season who stayed put rather than bolting for the Duke job at her alma mater, watched her team hit the big shots it needed late.
"It was somewhat ugly on offense," Boyle said. "We are becoming a team that's very committed to the defensive end of the court. The last few games we've been able to break it open the last five minutes of the game."
Boyle wants her players to stop forcing it and be more patient on offense, using up time on the shot clock to create open looks.
Cal is still making adjustments, too. The Bears are missing reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year Devanei Hampton, who is sidelined for at least the first six weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
The teams have split their four meetings, with the Lobos beating the Bears 55-46 during the last matchup, in the 2005 preseason WNIT.
The Lobos missed three shots on the first possession of the game and started 0-for-6 until Kielpinski's jumper at 16:18, which started a 7-0 spurt.