No. 4 Seed Cal Takes on No. 13 Seed Fresno State in NCAA Opening Round
March 18, 2009
The California Golden Bears (25-6, 15-3 Pac-10) earned their school-record fourth-straight NCAA Tournament bid, garnering a No. 4 seed in the Trenton Region. Cal will open the tournament taking on the Bulldogs of Fresno State at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 21 at 5:00 p.m. PST.
Fresno State (24-8, 12-4 WAC), a member of the Western Athletic Conference, is making its second straight NCAA tournament appearance. The Bulldogs have won 12 of their last 14 games including bringing a current five-game winning streak to the Galen Center.
Fresno State is a very familiar opponent for the Bears. The two schools have played each other 25 times, with Cal holding a 20-5 series advantage. The Bears have won the last five meetings, including an 83-79 victory in Fresno last season. Cal senior forward Ashley Walker scored 31 points with 23 rebounds to lead Cal to the come-from-behind victory over the Bulldogs in the 2007-08 season-opener .
The winner of Saturday's game will advance to play the winner of No. 13 Marist Red Foxes (29-3, 18-2 MAAC) and the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers (23-9, 8-6 ACC). The Bears have never faced Marist and are 0-2 against Virginia.
This is the seventh overall tournament bid in program history for the Bears, who hold a 2-6 record in NCAA Tournament games. The Bears have twice won a first-round game. In 1993, Cal topped Kansas, 62-47, playing in Lawrence, Kansas, but fell in the second round, 82-63, to Vanderbilt. Last season, Cal, as a No. 3 seed, defeated No. 14 seed San Diego, 77-60, at Stanford before falling in the second round to the No. 6 seed, George Washington, 55-53.
Cal is 4-4 this season against the tournament field with victories over Arizona State, Stanford, Rutgers, and Iowa. In 2008-09, the Bears have lost to Arizona State, Stanford, Oklahoma, and TCU.
Ashley Walker has led the Bears in the NCAA tournament for the past three seasons. Walker has scored 20 or more points in three of the four NCAA tournament games in her career. She averages 20.25 points and 10.25 rebounds in tournament contests. Walker is coming off a strong Pac-10 tournament performance. She garnered all-tournament honors after scoring 43 points with 25 rebounds in the two games.The Bears are known for their defense. The team is on pace to set the Pac-10 for fewest points allowed per game, coming into the tourney with opponents averaging just 53.8 points when playing the Bears. Cal has held opponents to 10 or fewer points in a half twice this season and have four games holding their opponent to 40 or less total points.
The Cal offense features two of the top post players in the Pac-10. Walker earned her third consecutive first-team All-Pac-10 honor this season after leading the conference in scoring. Walker, averaging 19.3 points per game, has been a steady contributor for the Bears, only scoring in single digits twice this season. She was also an all-defensive team member, with 12 double-doubles on the season. Walker is a finalist for the Wooden Award and a strong contender for the State Farm Wade Trophy and the Naismith Award, the three national player of the year honors.Senior forward Devanei Hampton got off to a slow start to the season. Coming back from offseason knee surgery, Hampton missed the first three games of the season completely and did not return to the starting line up until Dec. 29. Coming off the bench, Hampton averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Since Dec. 29, Hampton has averaged 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds, earning her Third-Team All-Pac-10 honors.Junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson earned her first All-Pac-10 First Team honors this season. Gray-Lawson was second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.9 points per game, but it was the 37 she scored on Jan. 18 against then-ranked No. 6 Stanford that left the biggest impression. Gray-Lawson is second on Cal`s all-time three-point shooters list and ranked third in three-point efficiency in the Pac-10 this season. Gray-Lawson was also among the nation's best in assist-to-turnover ratio with 94 assists to 65 turnovers.
Junior point guard Natasha Vital comes into the tournament ranked sixth on the Cal career assist list, with 99 dishes so far this season. Vital is another accurate three-point threat, who was second in the Pac-10 with a three-point accuracy above 40.0 through the end of the regular season. Vital was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 and all-defensive team.Rounding out the starting lineup is junior guard Lauren Grief. Greif was third on the team in rebounding, averaging 5.6 boards per game. She's also an outside shooting threat, averaging over a made-three per game this season.
The Bears' top performers off the bench are freshman guard Casey Morris (5.1 ppg, 1.64 apg) and sophomore forward/guard Kelsey Adrian (3.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg). Adrian is a 6-1 guard who can play multiple positions on the floor, giving the coaching staff options in their substitutions. Morris, the lone freshman to get quality minutes on this veteran squad, has played in every game this season for the Bears.
CAL EARNS SEVENTH NCAA TOURNAMENT BERTH In 2008-09, Cal earned its seventh invitation to the NCAA Tournament and fourth under fourth-year head coach Joanne Boyle. This year marks the first time Cal has received four straight NCAA Tournament selections. The Bears own a 2-6 all-time NCAA playoff record, including a program-best second-round showing in 1993 and 2007. Cal also has advanced to the WNIT four times - 1979, 1981, 1984 and 1987, when the Bears finished second for their best result.
CAL SUFFERS STUNNING DEFEAT IN PAC-10 SEMIFINALS After beating Washington, 61-41, in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals, Cal advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament for the third straight season. The USC Trojans jumped out to a hot start, putting Cal in its largest halftime deficit of the season. After trailing by 13 points in the second half, Cal started a late rally, going on a 15-5 run to pull within two points, 69-67. The Bears had possession of the ball with seven seconds remaining when the Trojans fouled junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson, putting her at the line with a chance to tie the game. Gray-Lawson missed both free throws, with USC pulling down the rebound. Gray-Lawson fouled the Trojan player, who then missed both of her free throws. Cal got the rebound, but lost control of the ball while bringing it up the court. The ball went out of bounds off of a Trojan, giving the Bears a chance to inbounds the ball deep in their own zone with 0.3 seconds left on the clock. Junior guard Lauren Greif threw a perfect pass to Ashley Walker beneath the hoop, who tipped the ball into the basket and seemingly tied the game for the Bears. After the officials reviewed the play, the basket was waived off and USC earned the 69-67 victory and the trip to the Pac-10 Championship game.
Walker was named to the All-Tournament team, marking the third straight years the Bears have had a player earn the honor. Devanei Hampton earned the accolade in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Walker scored 43 points with 25 rebounds in her two tournament games.
WALKER, GRAY-LAWSON HEADLINE PAC-10 HONOREES Senior forward Ashley Walker and redshirt junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson were among the five first-team All-Pac-10 selections. This marked only the fourth time in school history and the second straight year that the Bears have had two first-team All-Pac-10 honorees in one season. Walker is one of only two three-time first team All-Pac-10 selections in school history. Senior forward Devanei Hampton is the only other player to earn that honor three times. This season, Hampton was named to the third team. Walker was also named to the five-member Pac-10 All-Defensive team, the second year she has earned that award. Junior guard Natasha Vital was named as an honorable mention for both All-Pac-10 honors and the Defensive Team.
DANCING AND BOWLING The California Golden Bears are the only Pac-10 school this season to have their football team earn a bowl bid and both their men's and women's basketball teams secure invitations to the NCAA tournament. The Cal football team took on the University of Miami in the Emerald Bowl Dec. 26 in San Francisco. The Cal men secured a No. 7 seed in the West Region, taking on the No. 10 Maryland Terrapins in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
DEJA VU The Bears ended the regular season with a 24-5 regular season record, going 15-3 in the Pac-10, and finishing in second place in the conference standings to earn a No. 2 seed in the Pac-10 tourney. These are the exact same marks the Bears finished with in the record-setting 2007-08 season. The pair of 24 regular-season victories are the most in program history. Since joining the conference in 1986-87, the Bears have two second-place Pac-10 finishes, this season and last season, and twice have been the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Bears' 24 wins so far this season is second to only the 27 they finished with last year.
20-20-20 VISION Head coach Boyle has led her teams to back-to-back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in program history. The Bears had back-to-back 20 win seasons on 1980-81 and 1981-82, but had never won 20 games three seasons in a row. This is just the eighth time in program history the team has finished with 20 or more wins. Including her time in Richmond, Boyle has now led teams to 20 or more victories in six of seven years as a head coach.
RECORD WIN STREAKS The Bears set multiple consecutive victory marks this season. The Bears won seven games to start the season, the best start to a season in the history of Cal women's basketball. The Bears also had a 33-game nonconference home win streak. They had not lost to a non-Pac-10 opponent while playing at Haas Pavilion since a Nov. 26, 2005 loss to Baylor. The Bears snapped both of those streaks with a home loss on Dec. 7 to TCU. After falling to Oklahoma on Dec. 13, the Bears put together a strong of 12 straight victories, 11 of which coming against Pac-10 opponents. Both of those streaks were snapped by the Feb. 14 loss at Stanford. The 12-game win streak had been the fifth longest active streak among all DI teams before it ended. The Bears previous record for consecutive victories had been 10. Cal's previous record for consecutive Pac-10 wins was eight.
INJURIES With only 11 players on the roster, injuries were a key element to the Bear's season story. The Bears began the season without the help of two of their posts, 6-3 senior and three-time first team All-Pac-10 selection Devanei Hampton, and 6-5 junior Rama N'diaye. Hampton missed the first three games of the season while recovering from June 30, 2008 arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in her right knee. This was the third time in her collegiate career Hampton underwent surgery on her right knee.
N'diaye missed the first 18 games of the season recovering from surgery to repair her ACL from an injury sustained in the Bears first round 2008 NCAA tournament game against San Diego.
The Bears were very lucky to avoid any new injuries to their squad, though they had a big scare on March 1 when junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson left the UCLA game with a knee injury. An MRI revealed that Gray-Lawson had merely sprained her left knee. She was back on the court for the next game and did not miss a start. Gray-Lawson missed all but nine games of the 2006-07 season after sustaining a season-ending ACL injury to her right knee.
Sophomore forward/guard Kelsey Adrian missed two games this season after sustaining a mild concussion against Oregon State on Feb. 21.
DEFENSE The Cal Bears are best known for their defense. They closed out the regular season holding opponents to just 53.7 points per game, tanking them No. 13 in the nation. They are on pace to set the Pac-10 record for lowest points allowed average, breaking the previous record of 54.3 set last season by Cal.
The Bears have twice held opponents to 10 or fewer points in a half, with Oregon scoring 10 in the first half of the game in Eugene on Jan. 24 and Washington scoring just nine first half points at Haas on Jan. 11.The Bears have five games this season where the opponent was held to 40 or fewer points.
The Bears are 20-0 when holding their opponents to 55 or fewer points.
The Bears have two of the most efficient three-point shooters in the Pac-10. Junior guard Natasha Vital is second in the conference, making 41.6 percent of her three-point attempts. Alexis Gray-Lawson is third with a 40.4 percent three-point shooting percentage. Gray-Lawson made eight consecutive three-point attempts over a three game span in late February. She was perfect against Oregon and Oregon State and went 4-for-4 from long range in the first half of the USC game before snapping the streak in the second half.
Gray-Lawson moved up to No. 2 on the Cal career three-point list, passing Liz Rizzo (1994-97, 135) and has a good chance to leave Cal after next season as the all-time career leader in that category.
ASSISTS Alexis Gray-Lawson earned her first career double-double of her career on Dec. 6 when she scored 12 points with 10 assists against Princeton. Gray-Lawson was the only Pac-10 player this season to log 10 assists in a game.Gray-Lawson is third in the Pac-10 this season in assist-to-turnover ratio. She closed out the regular season with 91 assists to 59 turnovers, ranking her in the top-60 players in the nation this season in that category.Vital moved into Cal's career assist top-10 list this season and should finish the year ranked No. 5 in the record book. She ended the regular season with 361 career assists.
2000, 1500, 1000, 500 Cal's starting have the distinction of having one member score her 2000th career point (Ashley Walker, March 1), another her 1500th career point (Devanei Hampton, March 1), one score her 1000th career point (Alexis Gray-Lawson, Nov. 29) and two score their 500th career points (Natasha Vital, Nov. 11 and Lauren Grief, Nov. 27) all in the same season. Walker and Hampton were the only two Pac-10 players this season to reach the 1,500 point milestone. Gray-Lawson was one of six Pac-10 players to pass the 1,000 point mark.
TWO MILESTONES, ONE HALF Two games after Ashley Walker became Cal's career rebounding leader in the Oregon State game, Feb. 21, she reached another career milestone. Walker became just the second player in Cal history and the 11th Pac-10 player to score 2,000 career points. She reached the milestone when she made a layup with 18:17 remaining in the second half of the UCLA game. A little over 10 minutes later, senior forward Devanei Hampton reached a milestone of her own when she scored on a jumper at 7:40 to post her 1,500th career point. Hampton is the eighth player in Cal history and the 39th Pac-10 player to score 1,500 career points. Walker was also the only Pac-10 player to reach 1,000 career rebounds.
GRAY-LAWSON'S 1000th POINT Alexis Gray-Lawson became the 20th member of Cal's 1,000 point club in the Virgin Islands when she drove through the lane to score a lay-in with 1:26 remaining in the first half of Cal's 76-43 victory over Iowa on Nov. 29. The St. Thomas crowd gave Gray-Lawson a rousing ovation when the accomplishment was announced.
WALKER'S 1,500th CAREER POINT Ashley Walker started her record-breaking and milestone-reaching season by scoring her 1,500th career point in the second game of the season. Against the Nevada Wolf Pack on Nov. 16, Walker hit a jumper at the 12:18 mark of the first half, putting her over 1,500 career points.
NATIONAL POLLS The Bears had two stints this season as the No. 3 ranked team in both polls. They have spent a combined four weeks this year with that program-best No. 3 ranking. The Bears spent two weeks during the 2007-08 season ranked at No. 8, the previous best ranking in program history.
The Bears had been ranked in the top-10 all season in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' poll and for 12 of the 17 rankings this season in the AP poll before dropping to No. 12 in the week 17 poll. Last season, the Bears closed out the season ranked in the top-10 in the AP poll for the final 13 weeks of the year and in 12 of the final 13 weeks of the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Since January 2008, the Bears have been ranked in the top-10 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' poll 25 of 26 weeks. The only time the Bears have not been in the top-10 was the final poll of the 2007-08 season when they dropped to No. 18 after their second round NCAA tournament loss to George Washington.
The Bears first returned to the polls in the 2006-07 preseason poll when they were ranked at No. 21. They were in the top-25 of both polls each week until dropping out in week 15. They returned in week 16 (Feb. 26, 2007), and have held a top-25 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today poll ever since. The Bears have been in the AP Poll's top-25 every week since the 2007-08 preseason poll.
BEARS 2008-09 WEEKLY RANKINGS(AP/ USA TODAY ESPN Coaches Poll)Preseason 9/9Week 1 7/6Week 2 3/3Week 3 3/3Week 4 9/7Week 5 12/9Week 6 13/9Week 7 13/9Week 8 13/9Week 9 11/9Week 10 8/6Week 11 7/5Week 12 3/3Week 13 3/3Week 14 6/6Week 15 4/4Week 16 9/9Week 17 12/12Week 18 14/NA
CAL LANDS NO. 1 RATED RECRUITING CLASS Seven highly-ranked student-athletes, all of whom are ranked in the top 50 by at least one scouting service, have signed NLI's to play basketball at California beginning with the 2009-10 season. The combination of the seven incoming players has given Cal the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Blue Star Basketball Report. Cal's recruiting class is ranked No. 2 by All-Star Girls Report and the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, with ESPN HoopGurlz ranking the class at No. 3. Included in the Bears freshman class of 2009-10 are two Bay Area standouts, Sacred Heart Cathedral High's Tierra Rogers and Pinole Valley High's DeNesha Stallworth, who will be joining four Southern California prep stars, Talia Caldwell of Marlborough High in Los Angeles, Layshia Clarendon of Cajon High in San Bernadino, Eliza Pierre of John Muir High in Pasadena, and Gennifer Brandon of Chatsworth High in Sylmar, and one Oregon product, Brenna Heater of Ashland High in Ashland. Of the seven Bear recruits, five are rated in the top ten at their position (as ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz) and all are in the top 15.
HS ALL-AMERICANS The incoming Bears of 2009-10 dominated the two high school All-American teams that were announced in the past few weeks with five of their recruits named to at least one of the two high school All-American teams. Forward DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) had the honor of making both teams. Playing in the WBCA All-American game April 4 in St. Louis will be guard Layshia Clarendon (San Bernadino, Calif.) and Stallworth. Players selected for the McDonald's All-American game on April 1 in Miami include forward Gennifer Brandon (Sylmar, Calif.), guard Eliza Pierre (Pasadena, Calif.), guard Tierra Rogers (San Francisco, Calif.) and Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.). Both All-American games are a national stage for the top female basketball prospects in the nation. Brandon, Pierre, and Rogers all were named honorable mentions for the WBCA All-American team.