No. 21 Cal Hosts Saint Mary's in Season Opener

Nov. 6, 2006

BERKELEY, Calif. -

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Coming off a breakthrough season, No. 21 California opens 2006-07 at home against Saint Mary's Sunday, Nov. 12, at 2 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears, who are in search of their fourth consecutive season-opening win, swept their exhibition games, 81-55 over Melbourne Roos and 81-63 over Love and Basketball.

Under the direction of second-year head coach Joanne Boyle, Cal returns seven letterwinners and three starters from last year's team which posted an 18-12 overall record, finished sixth in the Pac-10 at 10-8 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. In 2005-06, the Bears recorded their first winning overall and conference records, and NCAA Tournament bid since 1992-93.

Sophomores Devanei Hampton, Alexis Gray-Lawson and Ashley Walker return to lead Cal after stellar freshman seasons. Hampton led Cal and all Pac-10 rookies in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg) to become the 10th freshman to ever earn first-team All-Pac-10 recognition. Gray-Lawson finished second on the team in scoring at 14.6 ppg, garnering the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award. Walker was third on the team in scoring (13.3 ppg) and second in rebounding (7.7 rpg), joining Hampton and Gray-Lawson on the Pac-10 All-Freshman squad.

Walker averaged 24.0 ppg and 13.0 rpg during Cal's two exhibition games. Gray-Lawson (18.0 ppg) and freshman forward/center Rama N'diaye (10.5 ppg) also contributed double-figure points.

Junior forward Krista Foster, sophomore forward Shantrell Sneed and senior guard Keanna Levy are also among the returning players expected to play bigger roles this year. The Bears also welcome freshmen guards Lauren Greif (Portland, Ore.) and Natasha Vital (Stockton, Calif.) this season. Senior forward/center Emmelie Geraedts provides added leadership for the Bears, and junior guard Kelly O'Connell hopes to see her first action in a Cal uniform after missing the last two years with foot injuries.

Defense should continue to be the Bears' strength this season. In 2005-06, Cal set two school defensive records - scoring defense (60.4 ppg, 2nd Pac-10) and field goal percentage defense (37.8%, third Pac-10).

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