No. 4 Seed Cal Takes on No. 1 UConn in Sweet 16
March 25, 2009
The No. 4 seed California Golden Bears (27-6, 15-3 Pac-10) are making the first trip to the Sweet 16 in the history of the program, advancing to the Trenton Regional after a pair of decisive first and second round victories over No. 10 seed Fresno State (70-47) and No. 5 Virginia (99-73).
The Bears will take on the UConn Huskies (35-0, 16-0 Big East), the No. 1 seed in the Trenton Region and the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament. The two teams will be playing on Sunday, March 29 for the right to advance to the elite eight to face either Texas A&M (27-7, 11-5 Big-12) or Arizona State (25-8, 15-3 Pac-10) on Tuesday, March 31 to get a ticket to the Final Four in St. Louis the following weekend. The Cal/Uconn game will be the national game on ESPN. It airs live at 9 a.m. Pacific Time (12 noon in New Jersey).
The Bears come into the game with a 27-6 overall record, tying for the most wins in a season in program history. In their 7 NCAA tournament appearances, they have a record of 4-6.
Since their final game of the Pac-10 regular season, the Bears offense has been heating up, averaging 74.2 points per game, well above their regular-season average of 66.7. The scored a season-high 99 points against No. 24 Virginia, their third victory of the season over a top-25 opponent.
The Bears are led by first team All-Pac-10 senior forward Ashley Walker. Walker, who led the Pac-10 in scoring this season with a 19.1 point per game average, is averaging 24.0 ppg in the Bears four post-season games. She tied her career high with a 32-point performance against Virginia, the fourth time this season Walker has eclipsed the 30-point mark.
Walker has scored 20 or more points in five of the six NCAA tournament games in her career. She has scored 134 points in NCAA Tournament games (22.3 ppg). She has led the Bears in scoring in all six of the Tournament games she has played in.
Walker is a finalist for the Wooden Award and the State Farm Wade Trophy and is on the final ballot for the Naismith Award, the three national player of the year honors.
Senior forward Devanei Hampton played her best game of the season against Virginia. She scored a season-high 22 points with 11 rebounds for her third double-double in the last five games, but her first career NCAA tournament double-double. Hampton has four double-digit scoring performances in six career NCAA tournament games. She averages 13.5 ppg in her NCAA career games.
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 during most of the season. Gray-Lawson hit four three-pointers en route to scoring 22 points against Virginia.
Gray-Lawson has four double-digit scoring tournament games in the five in her career. She averages 14.4 ppg in the Tournament.
Junior point guard Natasha Vital comes into the tournament ranked sixth on the Cal career assist list, with 108 dishes so far this season. Vital had five assists with zero turnovers in the Fresno State game. 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 Greif. 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. Greif has found her shooting stroke, putting up back-to-back double-digit point performances in the two NCAA games. Greif was one assist shy of a double double against Virginia, with 9 assists to go with her 10 points.
The Bears' top performers off the bench are freshman guard Casey Morris (4.6 ppg, 1.58 apg) and sophomore forward/guard Kelsey Adrian (3.3 ppg, 2.1 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. Junior forward Rama N'diaye (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) will also see quality minutes in the game. At 6-5, N'diaye gives the Bears extra height in their post rotation.