Feb. 19, 2009
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) For senior forward Ashley Walker, the math is simple: When her California teammates start hitting shots from the outside, the Pac-10's leading scorer expects to have a big night.
Walker had 24 points and 11 rebounds to help the sixth-ranked Bears bounce back from their only conference loss of the season and beat Oregon 84-42 on Thursday night.
"When our guards hit shots from the outside, the middle just kind of opens up," Walker said. "When the (double-team defenses) do come and I can kick out and they hit one, then it gives you more space to work down low."
Junior guards Laura Greif and Alexis Grey-Lawson added 11 points apiece for California (21-3, 12-1), which lost at No. 4 Stanford on Saturday.
"We just needed to get back on the court after the last game and regroup," Bears coach Joanne Boyle said. "The kids were anxious for the last two days just to get another game under their belt. We were just in a flow tonight. We need that."
No one was in more of a flow than Walker, who continues to make a strong push for conference player of the year honors.
Coming off her worst shooting performance of the season during the Bears' 58-41 loss to Stanford, Walker went 11 of 22 from the floor against the Ducks while leading Cal (21-3, 12-1) to its most lopsided win of the season.
Cal's senior leader, who shot a season-worst 5-for-16 and scored just 11 points in the loss to Stanford, routinely shredded the Ducks' interior defense despite consistently being double-teamed. At one point in the first half, Walker was singlehandedly outscoring Oregon 20-19.
She played sparingly in the second half when Boyle emptied her bench, but finished with her eighth double-double of the season and 42nd of her career. Walker also closed in on the school's career record for rebounds and needs just nine more to move past Colleen Galloway for Cal's top spot.
"She certainly came out on a mission and they came out looking to help her take that mission," Oregon coach Bev Smith said. "We weren't able to put up a wall to prevent them from doing it with such ease."
Ellie Manou and Taylor Lilley had 10 points apiece for Oregon (9-16, 5-9). The Ducks shot just 30.6 percent for the game while losing for the seventh time in their last nine games.
"They just really came out after us," Lilley said. "We were kind of allowing it to happen. We lacked energy and aggressiveness on the offense end and they were just intense and had a lot of energy."
By completing the season sweep of Oregon, the Bears also shook off any lingering effects from their loss to Stanford. Cal controlled the game against the Cardinal early but wore down late, leaving Boyle to question her team's focus.
That loss dropped Cal three spots in the poll and left them tied for first place in the Pac-10 along with Stanford. The Bears remain tied with the Cardinal atop the conference after Stanford beat Oregon State on Thursday but feel better about their situation now that Walker is back on track.
"In the first half I just told myself to run and get early post touches," Walker said. "That's something that we really worked on over the week. Then they started sending triples and doubles at me and I just kicked out and let my teammates do the work."
With Walker anchoring the middle against Oregon, Cal led by as much as 25 late in the first half and went into halftime with a 46-23 advantage.
The Bears also got a boost from junior point guard Natasha Vital, who was questionable earlier in the week after colliding heads with Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen on Saturday. Pohlen suffered a big gash on her forehead which later required nine stitches while Vital was dazed for several moments before being helped off the floor.
Vital practiced this week with no limitations and was back in the Bears lineup against Oregon and hit two big shots early, including a 3-pointer, to help spark a 19-2 run that gave Cal a 15-point lead that was never challenged.
Vital finished with nine points and six assists.
"We were in a really good flow tonight," Vital said. "What really helped us was pushing the ball in transition. We got a lot of easy looks and it was hard for them to double."
The Bears built a 28-point lead midway through the second half and were up 78-38 with 3:30 left to play.
The Ducks wore pink uniforms as part of the annual Pink Zone initiative by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association to raise awareness for breast cancer. The Bears donned pink T-shirts before the game but wore their traditional blue-and-white uniforms with pink shoelaces during the game.
The Bears will be back in action on Saturday, Feb. 21 when they host the ORegon State Beavers at Haas Pavilion. Tip off is at 6 p.m.