Nov. 15, 2012
BERKELEY - California's official colors are blue and gold, but the No. 12 Golden Bears (2-0) unveiled a bit of "silver" Thursday night in an 89-41 rout of East Bay rival Saint Mary's Thursday night at Haas Pavilion.
Lindsay Gottlieb's club unleashed a previously unused pressure defense - titled "silver" - to force the Gaels (1-2) into six turnovers in the opening two minutes to allow the Bears to jump out to a 13-0 lead, a margin that would grow to as many as 36 in the first half and 50 overall against a team that opened its season with strong showings in a split weekend against fellow Pac-12 schools Washington and Oregon.
"We call that defense `silver', which we learned two days ago," Gottlieb said. "We have athleticism and speed, and we rattled them a bit. Forcing 17 turnovers in the first half is what you want (from your defense)."
Six California players hit double digits in what is promising to be one of the most balanced offensive teams in the country. Junior Afure Jemerigbe led all scorers with 15 points, just two shy of her career best, and classmate Gennifer Brandon posted her second double-double in as many games with 14 points and rebounds, 12 of which came on the defensive end. Brandon, who also matched her career best with three steals, went 7-of-8 from the field.
"Definitely this year (I'm feeling it)," Jemerigbe said of her offense. "Tonight we started off with a `silver' game. . It gave everybody a bunch of energy and I think that I fed off of that, and it felt good in my hands when I had it and I just was in a rhythm."
Senior Talia Caldwell also added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, sophomore Brittany Boyd scored 13 in just 15 minutes of action and sophomore Reshanda Gray added 11 points and nine rebounds. Senior Layshia Clarendon, who was named to the Naismith early watch list today, was the final Golden Bear in double digits with 12 points.
Elsewhere on the court, junior Mikayla Lyles put up an impressive stat line with a career high five assists on zero turnovers to go with two steals, two points and three rebounds.
"I loved the balanced scoring," Gottlieb said. "I really liked the defensive effort from the whole group and thought that it was a big step forward for us. This is a good Saint Mary's team that's really going to contend in the WCC. They just came back from a good trip to the Northwest so we knew that it would be a challenge, and I think we made a statement tonight just about us and how we intend to be this year. We want to be really good and I think that this was a step forward."
Taking on an opponent that was coming off a 78-69 victory at Oregon, the Bears put little doubt as to the outcome of Thursday's match with Boyd forcing two turnovers and scoring four points in the opening 15 seconds to set the tone. Four points off layups by Brandon and three from Jemerigbe pushed the Cal lead to 13 before the Gaels were able to get on the board with a layup by Carli Rosenthal with 17:59 remaining in the first half.
The Bears did not relent, however, and pressed Saint Mary's into more turnovers en route to 40-9 lead just 10 minutes later. Saint Mary's was only able to attempt 17 shots in the first half compared to 39 attempts by Cal who held a 53-21 halftime advantage.
The defensive pressure continued in the second half, forcing the Gaels to shoot 21.9 percent (7-of-32) from the field in the final 20 minutes as Cal coasted to the 89-41 victory.
"I credit our assistant coaches and our players," Gottlieb said. "They're always in the gym doing extra work. So, Afure's three-pointer looks terrific; that's not by magic. She's in there getting extra shots with Kai (Felton) and we do finishing with (Brittany) Boyd and Charmin (Smith), and obviously Katy (Steding) has been tremendous with the posts. So the players put a lot of work in everyday and because they understand what I want from them schematically, we do more time on shooting and skills and it's really paying off so far"
California matches up against Cal Poly for a 5 p.m. tip-off on Monday, Nov. 19. The game will be a double header with the California women's volleyball team. Fans possessing a ticket to either contest will be allowed to watch both games with volleyball kicking off at 8 p.m. against Utah.