No. 15/16 Opens Pac-10 Season at UCLA, USC

Dec. 19, 2006

BERKELEY, Calif. -

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After a nine-day break for final exams, No. 15/16 California (8-1) begins the Pac-10 season at UCLA (6-6) Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m., and at USC (6-4) Friday, Dec. 22, at 1 p.m. The Bears, who are riding a four-game winning streak, complete their non-conference schedule next month at home against Rhode Island and UC Riverside.

Cal has equaled its best start through nine games in school history and owns its highest-ever national rankings in both the Associated Press (15) and USA Today-ESPN coaches' (16) polls. The 1992-93 Bears began the year 9-1.

Cal stands second in the Pac-10 in scoring (75.8 ppg) and third in scoring defense (59.1 ppg).

Last week, the Bears learned that they will be without the services of sophomore starting point guard Alexis Gray-Lawson (Oakland) for the remainder of the season. Gray-Lawson tore her ACL and meniscus in her right knee in the second half of the team's 73-65 triumph over Kansas Dec. 10.

Freshman Natasha Vital (Stockton) will be called upon to fill the point guard role the remainder of the season. Vital is averaging 3.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg and 1.3 apg in an average of 18.4 minutes per game.

The Bears, who currently have nine healthy players on the team, will look for everyone to step up their contributions in Gray-Lawson's absence. Cal fortunately boasts one of the best post tandems in the Pac-10 in sophomore forward/center Ashley Walker (Modesto) and sophomore forward/center Devanei Hampton (Oakland). Walker ranks second in the conference in scoring (20.3 ppg) and field goal percentage (64.0%), third in blocked shots (1.89 pg) and fourth in rebounding (8.4 rpg). Hampton averages 11.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg (T6th) and shoots 52.1 percent from the floor (10th Pac-10).

Rounding out Cal's starting unit is senior guard Keanna Levy (Waterloo, Iowa) and freshman guard Lauren Greif (Portland, Ore.). Levy is having a career year, contributing 7.2 ppg and 4.3 rpg after seeing limited action during her first three seasons. Greif is a steadying influence for a rookie and leads the team and ranks fourth in the conference in three-point shooting at 48.6 percent (17-35).

Junior forward Krista Foster (Fair Oaks) and freshman forward/center Rama N'diaye (Dakar, Senegal) have been factors off the bench for the Bears this season. Sophomore forward Shantrell Sneed (Fairfield, Calif.) and senior forward/center Emmelie Geraedts (Weert, The Netherlands) may see increased action with the team's shortened bench.

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