California Comeback Falls Short at No. 16 Rutgers
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  11/13/2011

Nov. 13, 2011

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California had a shot to tie the game with 1.8 seconds remaining on the clock, but the ball clanked off the rim and the No. 16 Rutgers Scarlet Knights held on for a 73-70 victory in New Jersey, denying first year Golden Bear head coach Lindsay Gottlieb her first victory at the helm of the program. Gennifer Brandon had her sixth career double double in the loss.

The Bears took their first lead of the game, 6-4, on a fast break bucket by freshman guard Brittany Boyd, the first points of her collegiate career. Holding a slim 11-10 lead, Cal looked to break the game wide open, going on a literal run. Using their speed, the Bears took over the game, capping a run with back-to-back baskets from freshman forward Reshanda Gray, the first on an inbounds pass from junior guard Eliza Pierre and the second on another feed from Pierre after a steal and a fast break, to go ahead 19-10.

In the blink of an eye, or technically two clock minutes, Cal's lead had been chipped back down to two, 19-17, as the Scarlet Knights capitalized on Cal turnovers, converting them into seven points.

Both teams went cold, with the score holding at 19-17 for over two minutes. Rutgers finished their comeback, tying the game, 23-23, with 5:36 remaining in the half.

Just as quickly, Gray untied the game, draining the first three-pointer of her career seventeen seconds later to give Cal a 26-25 advantage. Freshman forward Justine Hartman earned her first collegiate stats at the 3:22 mark, grabbing an offensive rebound and then laying in the put back to push the Cal lead to 28-25.

In frenzied play to close out the half, Rutgers had two chances to go into the locker room with a lead. They missed a layup, managed to get the offensive rebound, and missed again. Sophomore forward Gennifer Brandon battled two defenders to come up with the board. She got the rebound, getting fouled with three seconds remaining. Brandon made both free throws to give Cal a 34-31 lead at the break.

Rutgers tied the game, 24-24, 13 seconds into the second half when Erica Wheeler drained a three-pointer. Another Wheeler trey gave Rutgers a 41-36 lead with just over 17 minutes to play. Rutgers turned up the pressure in the second half, forcing six Cal turnovers in the first three minutes of the second half, helping them build a seven-point lead.

Cal, at one point trailing by a dozen, pulled back within six, 52-46, after Brandon battled through multiple defenders to will her way to the hoop and a lay-in with just over 11 minutes remaining. Rutgers answered on the other end, pushing the lead back to eight.

Boyd got the Bears back within striking distance, 72-66, after getting an and-one with 1:47 left in the game. Rutgers broke the Bears press, but couldn't convert a layup under pressure. The Bears pulled in the rebound, running back down the floor.

Sophomore guard Afure Jemerigbe got fouled in the lane, sending her to the line with 1:18 remaining. Jemerigbe converted the second free throw, cutting the deficit to five, 72-67.

On the opposite end, Rutgers, under pressure, had another miss and Brandon pulled in a huge rebound. With the Bears running back down the court, Jemerigbe got wide open in the left corner, draining a three to make it a two-point game, 72-70, with 38 seconds remaining.

Boyd fouled Rutgers' Khadijah Rushdon with 13.1 remaining. Rushdon made one free throw, but missed the second. Sophomore guard Lindsay Sherbert pulled in the defensive rebound and Cal raced back to the offensive zone.

Boyd got the ball on the right side and shot off a three with two seconds remaining, a bucket that would have tied the game. The ball clinked off the rim, and Rutgers held on for the 73-70 victory.

"We felt that we had opportunities to win this game," said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "I credit Rutgers with doing what they do really, really, really well. This is a difficult place to win a game. I thought we had more chances in the first half to build a bigger lead, but then they came out and played that quintessential Rutgers basketball, and we didn't respond well enough. I was really proud with how we fought back and gave ourselves a chance to be back in the ball game. This is going to be really good for us. We want to be a team who is the toughest team in the gym, even when we are playing the likes of Rutgers. We'll work on that. We like the effort of our kids to finish strong."

Brandon, playing in her first game after sitting out all of last season with a stress fracture in her shin, scored 12 points with a game-high 15 rebounds, the sixth double double of her career.

"She told me before the game that she was a little bit nervous," Gottlieb said of Brandon. "I told her to just do what you do. I thought her energy sort of lifted us all game. That's something we will rely on. She was back out there acting like we were still in the game. Everyone fed off that."

Jemerigbe led the team with 14 points. Two of the freshmen, Boyd (12) and Gray (11), also ended the game in double figures.

The Bears will be back home for a pair of games next weekend, hosting Sacramento State on Thursday night, Nov. 17 and Illinois on Sunday, Nov. 20. Gottlieb, the ninth head coach in the history of the program, will now have an opportunity to earn her first victory at the helm of the Bears in front of the home crowd.