Jan. 16, 2013
Haas Pavilion| Berkeley, Calif.
BERKELEY - Fresh off a defining win at Maples Pavilion, No. 7/7 California returns home to take on league-leader USC Thursday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Haas Pavilion and will air on the Pac-12 Networks with Krista Blunk (play-by-play) and Mary Murphy (analyst) making the call.
California (13-2, 3-1 Pac-12) will look to continue its strong play in what should be its toughest stretch of the season that began with road games at Utah, No. 20 Colorado and No. 5 Stanford along with a home game against the Cardinal and now successive games against USC and No. 14 UCLA - two teams tied atop the Pac-12 standings with 4-0 records. Cal's win at Stanford Sunday ended the Cardinal's 81-game conference winning streak and firmly put the Bears in "elite" company across the women's basketball landscape.
USC (7-8, 4-0 Pac-12) is off to its best conference start since the 2004-05 season with four straight victories after enduring a six-game skid to close non-conference play. The Trojans have been able to win all of the close games to open Pac-12 play, winning matchups against Oregon State, Oregon and Washington State by a combined eight points. USC also holds an 81-72 win against Washington.
Fans can listen to Dave Lewis's live call of the game on CalBears.com's premium All-Access player for a monthly fee.
A CALIFORNIA WIN VS USC WOULD:
GAME RECAP: Gennifer Brandon had 14 points and 12 rebounds and No. 7 Cal snapped fifth-ranked Stanford's 81-game conference winning streak with a commanding 67-55 victory Sunday in the second meeting between the Bay Area rivals in six days. Brittany Boyd added 19 points while Layshia Clarendon had 14 to help the Bears beat a top-5 opponent for the first time since a 66-52 victory against No. 2 Rutgers on Nov. 22, 2008. Mikayla Lyles scored 11 of her career-best-matching 14 points over the final 6:04 of the first half as Cal took control on the way to snapping Stanford's 10-game winning streak in the series and three-year run of dominance against the conference.
THE LAST TIME VS USC: Junior Layshia Clarendon hit a buzzer-beating 3 to send the game to overtime, but USC had a dramatic comeback of their own, erasing a seven-point OT deficit to defeat the California Golden Bears, 76-75.
BECOMING ELITE: The Bears speak this season of becoming one of the "elite" teams in NCAA women's basketball after seeing flashes in 2011-12, and Sunday's victory at Stanford may have been what was needed to join that discussion. After close losses last year to No. 2 Stanford, No. 12 Ohio State, No. 16 Rutgers, No. 24 Texas and No. 4 Notre Dame, the Bears have this season knocked off No 19 Kansas(88-79), No. 20 Colorado (55-50) and No. 5 Stanford (67-55) in addition to marquee non-conference wins against Georgetown (72-56) and at Northwestern (71-65). Cal's lone losses this year are at No. 4 Duke and vs Stanford.
IN THE RANKINGS: For the third consecutive week, California holds steady at No. 7 in the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches' polls. The Bears are nearing the highest rankings since the 2008-09 team climbed as high as No. 3 in the country, a program-best mark. That team, led by Alexis Gray-Lawson, went on to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 with a 27-8 final record. Five teams on this year's schedule - Stanford (6), Duke (4), UCLA (14), Colorado (21) and Kansas (23) - are ranked this week.
RPI: California clocks in at No. 5 in the second RPI report of the season. The Bears have played one of the country's toughest non-conference schedules and played a balanced mix of home and away games at this point in the season.
NATION'S TOUGHEST STRETCH?: The Bears open Pac-12 play with possibly the toughest eight-game stretch in the country. California roughed out a win at Utah in the Pac-12 opener and hung on to defeat No. 20/25 Colorado Sunday before falling 62-53 to No. 5 Stanford Tuesday - all in a span of five days. The Bears then defeated Stanford (67-55) five days later before hosting USC, No. 14 UCLA, No. 21 Colorado and Utah to close January.
PICK YOUR WEAPON: One thing Coach Gottlieb is preaching this season is the balanced options that her team possesses on the offensive end of the court, and the numbers back up that assertion. Three Bears average double figures scoring, and the third through sixth leading scorers all average between 6.8 and 9.1 points. Mikayla Lyles's display at Stanford continued the mantra that any Bear can pace the team on any given day.
MIK'S DAY: Junior Mikayla Lyles had a career outing at Stanford Sunday in matching her personal bests with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but her contributions were even bigger than what you see on the stat sheet. A player that averages 12.0 minutes per game, Lyles was able to open up Stanford's packed-in zone with four 3-pointers in the first half, and her confidence spread as the rest of the Bears began to see a wider rim the remainder of the game.
DON'T OVERLOOK GEN: Junior Gennifer Brandon's numbers would hardly be called modest at 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. However, given Cal's depth, the forward has averaged just 25 minutes per game. Spread her numbers out over the course of a 40-minute game, and Brandon averages 18.5 points and 15.8 rebounds.
CAL ON THE BOARDS: Senior Talia Caldwell and junior Gennifer Brandon combine to make the Cal post players possibly the most dominant on the boards in the NCAA as Cal ranks third in the country with a +12.6 rebounding margin. Caldwell is the active Pac-12 leader with 840 rebounds, and Brandon is not far behind at No. 4 on the active list with 797 boards. No other duo in the league combines for over 1,350 rebounds, let alone the 1,637 by these two.
CALDWELL JUMPS UP THE BOOKS: Senior Talia Caldwell continues to climb California's all-time rebound list with each passing game for the Bears. Caldwell currently sits 7th with 840 career rebounds all-time at Cal, 15 behind Cynthia Cooke for 6th all-time. Caldwell is also just 54 points shy of becoming member No. 23 of the 1,000-point club at Cal. She is on pace to become just the third Bear to join the 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound club beside Ashley Walker and Colleen Galloway.
BRANDON'S DOUBLE-DOUBLES: Junior Gennifer Brandon's has posted seven double-doubles in Cal's 15 games to open the 2012-13 season. Her double-double (17p-10r) against Lehigh in the opener was the 16th of her career, and she followed that effort with double-doubles against Saint Mary's (14p-14r), Cal Poly (18p-11r), Georgetown (13p-13r), Northwestern (11p-10r), Kansas (17p-10r) and Stanford (14p-12r). The Sylmar native is one of three Pac-12 players and one of 35 in the nation to average a double-double this season.
BOYD'S ON BOARD: Sophomore Brittany Boyd has been active in Cal's last three games, averaging 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3 assists per game against top-25 teams Colorado and Stanford (twice). In back-to-back games, Boyd hit new season highs in rebounds, pulling down 8 vs the Buffs before getting 9 vs the Cardinal.
MAKING THEM SEE GRAY: Sophomore Reshanda Gray had the task for 18 minutes Sunday of guarding Stanford's All-American forward Chiney Ogwumike and impressed the national pundits with her performance. Gray, talented on the offensive end of the floor as well, also averages 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in less than 20 minutes played this season and is fourth in the Pac-12 with a .552 shooting percentage.