#BearsInChina – Opening Win & Great Wall

Monday was the “third day” of this international tour that began Saturday, and it was a busy day that began with breakfast at the hotel before a hike along the Great Wall of China and a mid-afternoon game against professional team Liaoning.

Following a breakfast buffet that included continental breakfast, American breakfast and traditional Chinese breakfast items, the team loaded up the bus for an hour-long trip to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. On the way, tour guide Eric Liu gave more interesting tidbits about life in Beijing including:

*The literal translation of the Chinese words for the Great Wall of China is “The Long Fortress”

*The average income in Beijing is $1000 (US) a month

*With over 20 million people in Beijing, traffic is the norm. “We don’t have rush hour, we have rush day.”

*There are four geographical regions of Beijing, and which one you live in is normally dependent on which group you identify with – North (higher incomes), South (average incomes), East (younger generation) or West (government officials).

Once we arrived at the Great Wall by taking a chair-lift up and above the mountains, it was an assortment of photos and negotiating that took up the rest of the time as players searched for the best views or the best deals before taking a toboggan ride down the entirety of the mountain.

From there, it was time for lunch at the School House before driving back to downtown Beijing to shower and get ready for our first game, just 24 hours after arriving in China.

In a game that pitted the Bears against a team of WBCA professionals, California came out as the 94-96 victors in a game that saw neither team lead by more than six points. Junior Brittany Boyd led California with 24 points – with 14 coming in the fourth quarter – and added 11 rebounds, six assists and six steals.

Junior Reshanda Gray also added a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds, and freshman Courtney Range picked up a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

The two teams arrived at the Chinese National Team Training Center at the same time, giving both squads an opportunity to internally size up an unknown competitor. Once the game tipped off, Liaoning made its specialty known as the team shot and made four of its first five three-point attempts in the opening three minutes of the game.

After calling a timeout, Gottlieb’s team settled down and claimed a lead that it would not relinquish for the rest of the quarter with the opening period punctuated by a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Range to give the Bears a 25-22 cushion.

Cal led 52-47 at halftime with every Bear on the roster having scored a point. Gray and Justine Hartman both were a perfect 3-for-3 at halftime.

Cal was able to maintain its five-point lead at the end of the third quarter despite shooting 0-for-7 from beyond the arc compared to the four made 3s by Liaoning. However, the Bears did have their best free-throw shooting quarter of the night at 4-for-5, an important note as Liaoning’s third quarter consisted of four made 3s and six made free throws for their 18 points.

Leading 70-65 at the start of the fourth quarter, Gottlieb called a quick timeout when the Bears relinquished the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game. Fighting to make up ground while teaching her team and experimenting with combinations, Gottlieb’s Bears found themselves fighting a true up-hill battle in a quarter that ended with Cal being whistled for 12 fouls to Liaoning’s one foul.

However, the team was able to turn to its All-American candidate point guard Brittany Boyd to help turn the tide back in favor of the Bears. Boyd – who finished with 14 points in the quarter – used her speed to push the ball past her defender and open up options that allowed the team to catch back up to an opponent that successfully relied on sinking three-pointer after three-pointer coupled with over 20 free throw attempts in the quarter.

With the teams battling to the final buzzer, lay-ups by Range and Gray in the final minute along with a key defensive rebound by Range on a Liaoning free throw in the closing seconds sealed the 96-94 win.

“We definitely wanted to bring a show to Beijing,” head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Our seven or eight fans in the stands got to see a good game. Wow that team was really good. It’s a pro team that had players on the senior national team. They can really score. It was a great challenge for us. Obviously I’ll look at the film and see what we need to do better defensively. On the positive side we got everyone valuable minutes. We want to use this to see who we are, to form our identity and to try and get better, so there are a lot of things we can take away.”

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