Nov. 16, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -This time, California did all the little things and coach Joanne Boyle had few complaints.
Ashley Walker scored 27 points to surpass the 1,500 mark for her career and also grabbed 17 rebounds, leading No. 9 Cal past Nevada 67-53 on Sunday in its final tuneup before a showdown with fifth-ranked Rutgers on Friday.
Despite a cold performance on offense, the Golden Bears bounced back two days after Boyle publicly criticized her players and challenged them to do more on the heels of a subpar 24-point season-opening victory against Albany.
"We had talked about the things missing from the game - a lack of passion, a lack of energy, no cheering on the bench," Boyle said Sunday. "Part of our identity was missing. The kids came out and really focused."
Walker scored seven straight points for her team during one second-half stretch and hit 9 of 13 free throws, not to mention her two assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Alexis Gray-Lawson added 15 points, freshman Casey Morris came off the bench to score 12 and Lauren Greif had eight points, eight rebounds and four steals for Cal.
Cal came out with more energy, established its transition game, pressured the ball to get steals and hit the boards to limit Nevada's chances on offense. But the scrappy Wolf Pack kept pushing until the end, briefly pulling back within 10 on Megan Cherry's baseline 3-pointer with 4:04 left. Cal shot 34 percent and went 1-for-14 on 3-pointers.
"We kind of wanted to get Friday past us," Gray-Lawson said. "This is the perfect game to get coach back off us and play Cal basketball. We knew a lot of people were going to come to this game. Obviously they heard what coach said. It was on ESPN. We wanted to come out and have fun. We got away from that Friday."
The game with Rutgers in Haas Pavilion will be the Bears' last home game until Dec. 6. Boyle isn't sure whether Devanei Hampton, the 2007 Pac-10 Player of the Year, will be ready by Friday as she recovers from right knee surgery. Rama N'diaye, Cal's other injured post, hasn't been ruled out though initially wasn't expected back until later in the month or even early December following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She was hurt in the team's first-round NCAA victory over San Diego in March.
Cal lost 56-51 at Rutgers last December.
"They're a very good team. They're different than anybody we've ever played during the season," Walker said of Rutgers. "Whether or not we have the bigs back, we're excited to get to play. We're ready for it. We plan on having a great week of practice."
Johnna Ward scored 14 points with four 3-pointers as Nevada's lone player in double figures.
The Wolf Pack, who beat Eastern Washington 64-49 in their opener Friday night, faced a nationally ranked opponent in non-conference play for the first time since joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2000. Nevada is picked to finish fourth in the WAC this season.
When Walker scored at the 12:18 mark of the first half, it put her over 1,500 career points. She received a warm ovation from the crowd when the milestone was announced during a timeout moments later. Walker's two free throws at 11:29 started a 12-2 Cal run that helped the Bears to a 31-17 halftime lead. Ward hit consecutive 3s for Nevada late in the half.
"You have a team that's the real deal. I think they're as good as their ranking says they are," Nevada coach Jane Albright said. "Ashley Walker, I read the other day she's the top power forward in the country, and on a day like today I wouldn't argue that - 27 points and 17 rebounds. And we did everything we tried except for putting my coaching staff on her. I don't know what else you can do."
Cal has won the last five meetings between the schools and is 8-3 all-time in the series.