G Brittany Boyd
G Layshia Clarendon
G Afure Jemerigbe
F Gennifer Brandon
C Talia Caldwell
For the Bulldogs (28-6), who are seeded fourth in the Spokane Regional, it's:
G Shacobia Barbee
G Tiaria Griffin
G Jasmine James
F Jasmine Hassell
F Anne Marie Armstrong
Tipoff is 20 minutes away!
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Cal's women's basketball team plays the biggest game in program history tonight when it meets Georgia in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Before heading off to a team breakfast this morning, coach Lindsay Gottlieb took a few minutes to speak with the Bear Blog about the team's run to the regional final, and the chapters that have been written to get to this point.
Bear Blog: Have you taken time to reflect on just how special this season has been, or are you too focused on the next task at hand?
Lindsay Gottlieb: I think it's a little bit of both. I always feel like you are losing half of the experience if you don't take a minute to say this is really cool or this is fun or this is amazing. All of those things have come into my mind but without taking away from the goal and the next thing and keeping everybody focused. But I think we definitely have a group that is really appreciative of what is going on.
Bear Blog: Virtually the entire roster returned from last year's team that went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But that doesn't guarantee you will automatically take the next step. How has the team taken that next step?
Lindsay Gottlieb: I credit our players for doing everything I've asked them to do and more. The first thing I said last year after we lost to Notre Dame is I want to be really good next year, not just because we'll have everyone back, but because everyone is better. From an individual standpoint, I think they all took that to heart and became better athletes, better conditioned and better players. Just over the course of this year, we've come together and jelled and had experiences that have made us improve throughout the course of the season, too. I think all of those things factor in.
Bear Blog: Was there a moment or two during the season where you realized you have taken that next step?
Lindsay Gottlieb: There are a lot of moments. You can point to the dominance at the beginning of the year. We came out and just sort of asserted our will on some people. That was huge. Going to Duke and battling like we did and losing, that's kind of why I put it on the schedule. Did we want to win that game? Yes. But I saw something there that told me this team was going to be in it at the end. Obviously, the start of conference - that run with Stanford twice and Colorado and Utah twice and UCLA and USC - that was unreal. At the end of that, I remember Charmin said at one point, 'If I told you we were going to come out of this 9-1, what would you have said?' I thought that was huge. There were so many moments where I said OK, this is something special.
Bear Blog: Was the team huddle before overtime against South Florida in the second round the biggest challenge you've faced as a coach?
Lindsay Gottlieb: I've been asked about that maybe more than anything else ever. There was no doubt in my mind what to say. There wasn't one second where I looked at Layshia and said, 'why'd you foul a 3-point shooter?' or look at anyone and ask why they missed their free throws. It was all about looking them in the eye and making sure they knew I believed we were winning that game. All I said was every single person look forward. We don't waste one minute looking back at the last minute. The second I said that, I think they locked in on that. Now, they went out on the court and I turned to Charmin and I said, 'Oh my God, did that just happen?' But I'm never going to say that to the team. It was all about making sure they knew there was only one option, and that was to win the game.
Bear Blog: How quickly did you think of what you were going to say during that huddle?
Lindsay Gottlieb: My thought process through all of it was, how are they seeing me react? What do they need to see from me? If I projected any type of panic or even being upset, I think they would have fed off that.
Bear Blog: You seemed very calm outwardly during that last minute of regulation against South Florida. Were you that calm on the inside?
Lindsay Gottlieb: On the inside, I was maybe as torn up as you could imagine, as much as any point during the season. But there was just no option. It doesn't help if I'm showing that. We played really well that game against a very good team. We had a horrific 59 seconds or whatever it was. But I feel like if I let that 59 seconds define us, then we would have lost in overtime. We just had to go back to being who we are and doing what we do. It was five extra minutes. Nobody really scripted it that way, but the only option was to win the game.
Bear Blog: When you took the job at Cal, did you think you could get this far in your second season?
Lindsay Gottlieb: I knew I was coming into a group of people that had Final Four potential. I definitely felt like going into this year, it wasn't crazy to say I want to be working in New Orleans. So much has to go into that. The players have to buy in. There has to be a little bit of luck. That's why we focus on the journey and the process. It's not just about the outcome. But I did think that this is possible. That doesn't mean I'm not in awe of this whole thing. We have one more game to get there. But did I think it was possible? Yes.
Bear Blog: How closely did you follow Cal's program during your three years as the head coach at UCSB?
Lindsay Gottlieb: Very, very closely. I just cared a lot. I knew a lot of the players. Joanne (Boyle, former Cal coach) is one of my best friends. I was always close with Charmin (Smith, assistant coach). I was always respectful of the different role, but wanted to be somebody that was always connected in a positive way. I think that didn't change.
Bear Blog: When you heard Joanne might be leaving Cal, did you immediately think about the possibility of returning to Cal as head coach?
Lindsay Gottlieb: When Joanne initially got contacted by Virginia, we were in a big meeting with about 200 coaches at the Final Four. I get a text message from Joanne, asking if I was in the room. She asked if I could come out to the hallway. I came out to the hallway and she has this look on her face, and she said she just got a call from Virginia. My first five thoughts were how to be a good friend to Joanne. What does she need to talk about? After I got through that, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, in some way could this affect me? Joanne made a great move for what she wanted in her life. Did that ultimately open the door for me to come to Cal? Yes. I think it all worked out the way it was supposed to and in a positive way.
Bear Blog: How much did what Joanne accomplish at Cal lay the groundwork for the success you are having now?
Lindsay Gottlieb: It's everything. Joanne came in when Cal had 13 losing seasons in a row and the culture wasn't in place yet. She did all of that heavy lifting. Just making players aware on a daily basis of what it takes to be a winner. She fought a lot of battles and laid all that groundwork. In addition, for me personally, from the time I was 24 years old she gave me an incredible amount of responsibility. There's no question in my mind I wouldn't be a head coach anywhere if it wasn't for Joanne and also in this situation at Cal with this type of program.
Bear Blog: How similar are you philosophically to Joanne?
Lindsay Gottlieb: I think I learned so much from Joanne about how to run a program and how to recruit and how to handle things on a day to day basis. In terms of our work ethic and approach, we are similar. I think our personalities are really different, and I think that's why I was a really good assistant for her. I think you evolve as a head coach. You change and figure out what works for you. What works for me might be a little different than what works for her, but I think there are a lot of similarities because I came from her coaching tree.
Bear Blog: Have you allowed yourself at all to fantasize about the clock hitting 0:00 tonight and you are going to the Final Four?
Lindsay Gottlieb: I'm really trying to work on what I'm going to say to the team to get them ready. What am I going to say in the first media timeout? What adjustments do we need to make? What defense is Georgia going to play? I have to just focus on all those things that have gotten us to this point, just because I'm asking the players to do the same. If we do those things, I think we'll have a great moment at 0:00 on the clock. But it won't happen unless we do what we've done all year.
SPOKANE, Wash. - Cal's women's basketball team hopes the best version of itself is yet to come.
It will have to as the Bears move deeper into the NCAA Tournament. As the stakes grow higher and the competition grows stiffer, Cal knows it must move closer and closer to fulfilling its significant potential to keep the best season in school history alive.
The Bears next chance to do that is Monday when they meet Georgia in the finals of the Spokane Regional at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN with a berth in the Final Four on the line.
These new and improved versions of the Bears have become a rallying cry for head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and her players this postseason. Others may call it maximizing their potential or playing to the best of their ability. But for Cal, it means simply being Cal. And being Cal as much as Cal can be itself.
"That's kind of been our theme -- we don't have to do anything really different. We just have to be the best version of ourselves," Gottlieb said. "And I think that's what we have done all year. We have been able to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand, while recognizing the bigger picture and enjoying it. But I think that it's a really good feeling to know, hey, be confident in what we do and just do it really well."
The good thing is the Bears' best version of themselves could mean many things. Gottlieb all season has embraced the idea that her team can win in a variety of ways. Successfully forced into a half-court battle by LSU during the first half Saturday night, Gottlieb and her coaching staff made the necessary halftime adjustments to shut down the Tigers' inside-out offense and jump-start their own transition game. That allowed the Bears to turn a halftime tie into a double-digit victory.
"Just be us. Embrace the moment," Cal point guard Brittany Boyd said. "Be happy that we are here, but don't be satisfied, want more for each other, want more for this team, want more for our program, our school and do something that Cal has never done before. I think that just gives us chills and makes us want to go out and just think we can dunk or something. So just be us and play Cal basketball."
Gottlieb has spent the entire season striking an effective balance between allowing her players to be individuals and have fun while reeling them in when necessary. The credit there not only goes to Gottlieb, but to the players for allowing themselves to be coached and appreciating the staff's willingness to afford them freedom.
"If anyone has seen us, we're a team that celebrates everything," Cal guard Layshia Clarendon said. "We're a grateful, upbeat, thankful team. I think Lindsay keeps us focused."
This is a new day for the Bears, but the bright lights of the Elite Eight don't seem to be bothering them. Players and coaches had their share of smiles and laughs before and after practice today at Spokane Arena. While players waited for the last few members of the team party to exit the locker room after practice, they were sprawled out in the parking lot sunbathing on an unusually warm spring afternoon in the Pacific Northwest.
"There's no question we're a team that embraces the moment and enjoys it but without losing our focus or losing our hunger to want to do more," Gottlieb said. "I think the best thing I can do is let them prepare the same way we always do and let us be the best version of ourselves. They know it's a bigger stage and I don't think that scares any of us. I think these kids rise to that occasion when given the opportunity."
The team had breakfast together this morning and then a film session to study tomorrow's opponent, Georgia. Then it was on to the bus for the arena, where first the Bears went through their media obligations. All five of Cal's starters and head coach Lindsay Gottlieb appeared at a news conference and the locker room was open to the media as well. Several of Cal's players were interviewed by newspapers, television stations and radio stations.
And now for some sights from postgame last night and today:
The second-seeded Bears have advanced to their first Elite Eight ever after knocking off No. 6 LSU here at the Spokane Arena on Saturday night. After being tied at halftime, Cal (31-3) pulled away in the second half after tightening up on the defensive end.
The Bears will play fourth-seeded Georgia at 6:30 p.m. on Monday night for the chance to go to the Final Four in New Orleans.
Layshia Clarendon led Cal with 19 points and a career-high six steals while Gennifer Brandon had 17 points and 13 rebounds. Brittany Boyd added 14 points, seven assists and four steals.
Gennifer Brandon leads the Bears with eight points and six rebounds. That included two free throws after she was fouled with just 0.4 seconds left in the first half. Afure Jemerigbe and Reshanda Gray have five points apiece, and Gray also has four rebounds.
Second half coming up in about 15 minutes.
G Brittany Boyd
G Layshia Clarendon
G Afure Jemerigbe
F Gennifer Brandon
C Talia Caldwell
G Danielle Ballard
G Adrienne Webb
F Bianca Lutley
F Theresa Plaisance
C Shanece McKinney
Right now, Stanford leads Georgia 42-34 with 10:05 left in the first game here tonight. The winner will face the Cal-LSU winner on Monday night, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Cal's game is estimated to tip off at 8:32 p.m., but that is an estimate and will depend on when the first game here ends. We will provide an updated start time, if necessary, when we get it.