Freshman guard and Oregon native Lauren Greif led all players with 19 points for Cal. Greif also had 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and a game-high 4 assists. Natasha Vital had 11 points and 6 rebounds, and fellow guard Keanna Levy returned to the line-up with a near double-double (9 points, 8 rebounds). Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton rounded out the balanced scoring, each notching 13 points.
"We have great post players," said Vital. "So I think on everyone's scouting report, they're going to try to limit their touches in the post. So us guards, we just wanted to earn respect, to show that the guards at Cal can play too. I think we did that today."
The balanced effort had Cal head coach Joanne Boyle cheering. "We were down in the locker room kind of celebrating the team effort and what that means in terms of the growth that we've had. We just really came together today and played great team basketball between our guards and our posts. Finally, some growth in terms of taking care of the ball. It felt like such a great flow to the game. My assistants work so hard on the scouting report, and I thought we did a great job taking away their strengths for the most part. Other than our free throw shooting, I thought it was almost a perfect game for us."
|AP Photo/George Nikitin
For the Ducks, forward Carolyn Ganes led the way with 14 points and a game-high 9 rebounds, with guard Tamika Nurse matching her point total. Leading scorer Eleanor Haring (14.5 ppg, 10th in Pac-10 entering the game) was held to 2 points and 2 rebounds.
"I thought it was a game of runs and a real battle of adjustments," said Oregon head coach Bev Smith. "Cal at the end went to their strengths and made the most of those strengths. But I was happy with our defensive effort and our ability to make them score in other ways and do other things other than just pound it inside with their two very good post players."
The Bears fell behind 6-0 and did not score until almost 4 minutes into the game on a basket by Natasha Vital who channeled injured guard Alexis Gray-Lawson by hitting a tough putback while falling down.
Vital then showed off her court vision. On a fast break, she passed up Walker down low and instead found a streaking Keanna Levy, who hit the basket and was fouled. Levy hit the ensuing free throw to close the gap to 6-5.
The Duck frontline played tough inside, bodying Hampton and Walker, and their guards doubled down on the Cal posts. Senior Jamie Hawkins had a strong half for Oregon, collecting 5 boards in only 11 minutes. The strategy, however, also put the Ducks at risk for foul trouble, and Haring collected her third with 6:38 left in the half. The Bears took advantage at the line, hitting 9 of 12.
|AP Photo/George Nikitin
The Ducks, who top the Pac-10 in three-pointers made, stayed in the game by hitting a few outside shots. Tamika Nurse hit both her trey attempts, and freshman guard Taylor Lilley made another. But they could not get many looks.
"[The Ducks] love to drive baseline and kick it for a baseline three," said Boyle. "So it was, 'Stick to your man. There will be no help side defense today.' In the first half, our posts were just one-on-one in there, trying to make them take some tough shots, and they missed some bunnies. We tried not to give those outside shooters early looks, because when they hit early shots, they're deadly."
The Ducks had trouble inside the arc, making only 5 of 19 attempts in the first half. Still, with the Bears themselves shooting only 34.6%, Oregon only trailed 29-24 after the first 20 minutes.
Oregon ratcheted up its defensive intensity at the start of the second half, bottling up Cal's inside game. The Ducks forced Cal to turn the ball over on its first two possessions, when first Walker then Hampton traveled as they found themselves double-teamed with the shot clock winding down.
On the other end, the Ducks went inside to Carolyn Ganes and Jamie Hawkins, who each had a lay-up, sandwiched around a trey from Lauren Greif. After four more points by Nurse, Oregon had pulled into a tie (32-32) with just under 16 minutes to go.
After a miss by Haring, Cal freshman Rama N'diaye came up with the loose rebound and passed ahead to Greif. Greif drove to the three-point line and then pulled back as if to take a jumper, only to find a streaking Vital for a fast-break lay-in. Ganes countered on the other end with a lay-up against Walker, who had to lay off because she had just picked up her third foul.
Lauren Greif then asserted herself as the star of the game. First, she grabbed an offensive rebound off a Vital trey attempt, earning the Bears an extra possession, one she cashed in a few seconds later with her three from the corner. Then, on the next trip down the court, on a Bear fast break, Greif parked herself beyond the arc and demanded the ball. Vital found her with a cross-court pass and Greif calmly sank her fourth three-pointer of the game. Vital added a 12-foot jumper, and the Bears had some breathing room (42-34) with 12 minutes left.
"I was just feeling it," said Greif. "Every time I passed up a shot, Ash and Dev were right there, 'You've got to shoot that!' Even when I hadn't been hitting my shots, they were there, supporting me. So if they keep supporting me, I'll keep shooting."
The Ducks did not lay down. Taking advantage of Cal's foul trouble - both Walker and Hampton now had three - Ganes scored 8 of Oregon's next 12 points, including a 3-pointer.
"It was an interesting practice yesterday, trying to talk to our posts about extending their defense to the three-point line," said Boyle about trying to guard Ganes. "They don't spend a lot of time out there."
Keanna Levy then did her part for the Bears, scoring 6 consecutive points for Cal. First, Levy grabbed two consecutive offensive rebounds, putting back the second one for a score. Then, with the clock winding down, she pulled up for a 15-footer. Finally, Levy drove right by Lilley for another lay-up. Still, when she then fouled Nurse, who hit both free throws, the Ducks had again made it a one-possession ball game (51-48) with 6:14 left.
|AP Photo/George Nikitin
But that would be as close as Oregon would get, because Vital found an opening in the Duck defense and hit a runner. Walker got her own rebound and hit a tough put-back, fouling out Haring in the process. Hampton scored on consecutive trips down the floor, the second time fighting through a defender's hand on the ball. Greif hit her free throws to add to her career-high, and the Bears ended the game on a 5-0 run to gain their biggest advantage, 65-56.
In the end, Bev Smith took special notice of Cal's guard play. "We wanted to keep their three bigs under thirty [points]. But Cal did a good job of adjusting to how we were playing their perimeter. They really drove it at us in the second half, and what we had hoped to do was to keep them in front of us and make them hit dribble-jumpers. They got some lay-ups near the end of the game that really took the wind out of our sails."
NOTES and QUOTES:
- Joanne Boyle collected the 100th victory of her career. She now stands
at 100-45 as a head coach. "A hundred wins. Where are Pat and those
guys?" joked Boyle, referring to Tennessee coach Pat Summit's
all-time record of 930 wins (and counting). "It's a great feeling, especially
to get [the milestone] off of a game like this."
- Greif shook off a poor game against Oregon State. "I just wanted
to play with more confidence today," said Greif. "I felt [against
OSU], at the end, I just got a little tired. One turnover, I just ... not
put my head down ... but just got less confident with the ball. I decided
that I wasn't going to let that happen today." Boyle commended
her effort. "I think that's big for a freshman. For a senior
to have a bad game and come back, no big deal. But for a freshman, it plays
with your head. So for Lauren to come back ... you don't get that
all the time."
- Greif is from Portland, and Smith recruited her to play for Oregon. "Lauren
is a tough, hard-nosed player, and we really wanted to keep her in Oregon.
We went after her pretty hard, and I think it was a tug of hearts. Unfortunately
for us, she wanted to get a worldly experience and leave the state and come
to Cal. But I tip my hat to her, and as long as she's not playing against
Oregon, I'll be pulling for her."
- Levy had sat out the Oregon State game after sustaining a concussion against
Washington. "I haven't really been hurt in my career here, so
I've really been blessed," said Levy. "But going out there,
you don't want to think about getting hurt, because that's when
you might get hurt again. I just went out there and tried to play my game.
I wasn't hitting shots in the beginning, so I tried to pick up my defense."
- While it won't show up on the stat sheet, Rama N'diaye played
tough defense while matched up with Haring. N'diaye used her length
and quick feet to frustrate Haring into a couple of turnovers.
- Cal committed only 13 turnovers for the game, to balance out 13 assists.
- The Bears again pounded the glass, out-rebounding the Ducks by 12 (42-30).
As with the scoring, Cal had great balance. Vital had 6 boards, and Hampton
and Greif each had 7. Levy and Walker tied for team-high honors with 8.
- By this season's standards, the Bears struggled on the free-throw
line, hitting only 64% (16 of 25). They had been hitting 68.5% as a team.
Walker continued her downward trend of late, hitting 7 of 12 attempts.
- Both teams had some foul trouble: Cal's Hampton and Walker each finished
with 4 fouls; Oregon's Haring and Kaela Chapdelaine fouled out, while
Hawkins and Nurse each had four.
- Cal hosted "Come to College Day," which boosted attendance to 3031, the second best crowd of the year.
©Copyright 2007, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.
If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.
Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.