Cal Rallies to Defeat USC, 68-59

Feb. 21, 2004

BERKELEY, Calif. - California rekindled its early season form in a 68-59 victory over USC Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion. On Senior Day, senior guard Nihan Anaz posted 21 points to help the Bears snap an 11-game losing streak and improve to 10-15 (3-13 Pac-10). USC, which began the day in third place in the Pac-10, fell to 14-11 (11-6).

'We talked a lot about effort because we didn't feel that the effort that is the culture of the Cal women's basketball program was there against UCLA,' said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer. 'That effort is what we needed to see to represent Cal women's basketball in the way for the fans, for the university, for the team, for the coaches and for themselves. Tonight, effort won the game. We measured effort in a few things: rebounding, loose balls and charges.'

'If Cal played like that against everybody, their record would be a lot better,' said USC head coach Chris Gobrecht.

Cal struggled in the first half, missing many layups, and trailed by as many as 10 at 30-20 with 3:09 left in the first half. Back to back layups from Anaz sent the Bears into the locker room down only 30-24.

The Bears kept up their intensity in the second half and grabbed their first lead since 1-0 at 37-36 on another layup from Anaz at the 14:20 mark. With USC ahead 49-48 with 7:43 to go, the Bears dug in and outplayed the Trojans down the stretch. After a 12-4 run, keyed by seven points from junior forward Jacqueline Sanchez, Cal darted to a 60-53 lead at 3:32. With two free throws from Sanchez with 46 ticks on the clock, the Bears held their biggest lead at 68-57.

After a free throw from Julia Numair with 7:28 remaining, 17 of Cal's final 19 points were scored by Sanchez (11) and Leigh Gregory (6). The 11 points matched Sanchez's career high set earlier this season against Miami (OH). Kristin Iwanaga tallied two free throws during the closing run.

Gregory finished the game with 15 points. Sophomore forward Renee Wright was an emotional spark plug for the Bears, recording five points and a season-high eight rebounds, including five offensive boards. She also dove on the floor regularly to corral loose balls.

'Leigh hit some big shots, and Jacqueline was the most aggressive consistently that I've seen her in a game,' said Horstmeyer. 'Renee was our sparkplug. Nihan came to score and to play defense. We need her to score, and she did that.'

Cal grabbed a season-high 49 rebounds (17 offensive ones) and outrebounded USC by three. The Bears also committing only 15 turnovers, the sixth time in the last seven contests that they've been under 20.

Senior guard LaTasha O'Keith had seven points and six rebounds, and senior center Olga Volkova had seven rebounds.

Ebony Hoffman led the Trojans with 15 points before fouling out with a technical foul with 46 seconds left, and Rometra Craig chipped in 12.

'I've known (Cal) had the potential to play like that,' said Gobrecht. 'The story isn't that they beat us. The story is why haven't they beaten other people. They're good. They played their rear ends off tonight. They deserve it.'

The Bears close out the regular season on the road at Oregon State on Thursday, Feb. 26 and at Oregon on Saturday, Feb. 28.

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