California Wins Season Opener Over Rutgers
The California Golden Bears opened their season with a 66-57 victory over the visiting Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Sophomore forward DeNesha Stallworth had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bears started off the game in a strong defensive stand. Sophomore guard Eliza Pierre got the first stop of the game, throwing down a block on a Rutgers shot less than a minute into the contest. Pierre also grabbed a steal in a stretch of four minutes to start the game when the Bears kept Rutgers off the scoreboard. On the offensive side, it was a pair of free throws by senior Center Rama N'diaye that officially started the season for Cal. A three-pointer by sophomore guard Layshia Clarendon at the 16:42 mark of the first half was the first made basket of the season, giving Cal an early 5-0 lead.
After a slow offensive start, both teams found their scoring groove. Rutgers clawed back into the game on three three-pointers by Erica Wheeler. Cal relied on more low post scoring with DeNesha Stallworth contributing six first-half points. After Cal took a 22-21 lead on a low-post feed from Pierre to sophomore center Talia Caldwell with 5:18 left in the first half, Rutgers went on a 10-5 run to hold a 31-27 lead. A layup by freshman guard Afure Jemerigbe with two seconds left in the first half put Cal back a point, 31-30, at the break.
In the second half, DeNesha Stallworth tied the game, 35-35. A quick steal and run to the hoop by Layshia Clarendon put the Bears up, 37-35. A jumper by Pierre followed by a three by freshman guard Lindsay Sherbert gave Cal a 42-37 advantage. A shot-clock beating jumper by Pierre started a 12-3 run to put Cal up 54-40 with 7:35 left.
Rutgers could not manage to put together a run to get back into the game as the Bears held on for a 66-57 victory.
"I am just excited to have our first game against some quality, quality competition end in a win at Haas," said head coach Joanne Boyle. "Just being a young team, we are looking to see what we can potentially do this year. I know it wasn't the prettiest of games, but it was nice to grind it out and get a win at Haas and start our season off in a good light."
Clarendon posted a team high 16 points, shooting 60 percent from the field (6-for-10). Stallworth logged the fifth double double of her career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Pierre was one shy of her career high for points, scoring 10. She also had six assists, two steals, and a blocked shot.
"Eliza saw open gaps when [Rutgers] were trying to fall back into their triangle and two and two-three defense, and she wasn't going to let them get set," Boyle said, describing Pierre's contribution to the victory. "She took the ball to the rim. I thought she did a great job. She is just the energizer bunny. For her to go that hard for 40 minutes, it is hard to keep going at that pace. I think the pace that she plays at has been a huge asset for us. And I think she is calmer on offense this year. Makes better decisions."
Two freshmen guards made their Cal debuts. Afure Jemerigbe scored nine points with five rebounds. Lindsay Sherbert, who got the nod in the starting lineup, scored six points with five boards.
"In the second half of the game, she really settled into herself," said Boyle about Sherbert's debut. "She was rebounding the ball pretty well for us. She took open shots. She's not afraid to shoot it. We need some of that. For a freshman, I don't think you would know she is a freshman out there when you watch her on the court. I thought she did a very good job. And Afure gave great minutes to us. Very different players, but they both bring great things to the table."
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