Nov. 25, 2006
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - No. 16 California battled back in the second half before falling to No. 14 Vanderbilt, 67-55, Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament at Memorial Gym. The Golden Bears fell to 4-1 with their first setback of the season, while the Commodores improved to 6-0.
"I'm really pleased with their effort," said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle. "I'm proud of our kids for fighting back. We made adjustments at halftime, and I think they bought into our game plan and really tried to fight back to get into the game. We made a couple of runs. It came down to a couple of baskets at the end where we didn't match up. They have big-time players, and they make great plays. That's why they're one of the best teams in the country."
Cal sophomore forward/center Ashley Walker posted 19 points and six rebounds to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Sophomore guard Alexis Gray-Lawson and freshman forward/center Rama N'diaye tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Bears. N'diaye recorded her first collegiate double-double with career highs in points and rebounds (10) off the Bears bench. N'diaye also led Cal with four assists in 32 minutes of action.
N'diaye came up big for Cal after starting sophomore center Devanei Hampton sprained her left ankle after hitting a jump shot with 10:07 to play in the first half. Hampton, who had four points and two rebounds in six minutes, did not return to the game.
"Devanei is a huge presence for us," Boyle said. "But, there's another way to look at it. Rama had to come in and play so many minutes for us. It gave her great experience and boosted her confidence. If Devanei was in there, I definitely feel it could have been a different game."
Christina Wirth posted eight of her 10 points in the game to help Vanderbilt jump out to a 10-5 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Behind a three-pointer from freshman guard Lauren Greif and baskets from Hampton and N'diaye, Cal went on a 7-0 run to close to within 16-14 with 9:40 remaining in the first half.
The Commodores rebuilt their lead to seven before Walker scored six of her eight first-half points to bring the Bears to within 22-20 with 5:50 left until the break.
However, Vanderbilt entered halftime ahead, 31-20, following a 9-0 run, which included one of tournament MVP Caroline Williams' five three-pointers in the game. Williams finished the game with 18 points.
The Commodores rattled off the first nine points of the second half, and Cal didn't get back on the board until a layup from Walker with 14:57 remaining in the game. Cal battled further adversity to its post game early in the second half, as Walker picked up her fourth foul with 18:46 to go in the game. She left the game for three minutes and didn't foul out of the game until there were 57 ticks on the clock.
Williams converted a layup with 16:20 to go to give Vanderbilt its biggest lead of the game at 39-20, but Cal continued to battle back throughout the game.
Gray-Lawson sank her third three-pointer to bring the Bears to within 62-53 with 1:44 to play, but Cal couldn't get any closer.
"I take the blame for how we started the game," Boyle said. "But in the second half, I believe my team felt like they belonged with the best teams in the country. Going into the game, I hoped they did. It's a great game for us to come in and get tested because it will help prepare us for the Pac-10."
In addition to Williams and Wirth, Carla Thomas (16) and Liz Sherwood (10) also posted double-figure points for Vanderbilt.
The Bears return home to host the Contra Costa Times Classic Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 2-3. Cal faces Harvard in the first game Saturday at 5 p.m., before San Jose State battles Arkansas State at 7 p.m.