The No. 11 California Golden Bears claimed the Cal Classic crown with a 72-56 victory over Georgetown. Tournament MVP Layshia Clarendon led the way with 20 points.
“This is just a really exciting win for our program,” said
Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “I am very happy for these players who work
extremely hard all of the time and I think they were excited to get their shot
against a team as good as Georgetown and prove that we can compete at that
level. Georgetown brought it
tonight. Sugar Rogers, one of the best
players in the country, the rest of the team is athletic and aggressive, but
they are never going to make anything easy and I thought our players responded
to that challenge.”
Cal (5-0) passed its first test of the season, withstanding
a charge by the Hoyas to pull away in the second half. The Bears once again
rode their depth and balanced scoring: Gennifer Brandon (13), and Eliza Pierre
(10), and Talia Caldwell (12) joined Clarendon in double-figures scoring.
Caldwell also collected nine rebounds to earn a spot on the All-Tournament
team, and fellow honoree Brittany Boyd distributed 14 assists.
“I think the best thing about our team is how many players
we have and the weapons that we have, and six averaging double figures,” said
Gottlieb. “But tonight I feel like, as every night, these two right here, Talia
(Caldwell) and Layshia (Clarendon), are two of our backbone players and I’d
include Eliza (Pierre) in that as well.
Layshia is so incredibly steady and does the job defensively and
offensively. And Talia with our amazing
post group that’s very heralded, she’s almost the unsung one, just does the
dirty work and I thought tonight was the difference in the game when she got a
couple big offensive rebounds. Overall I
am just really proud of our team, excited to get the win and I am just happy
for these players to have a championship for themselves at the beginning of the
“Anytime you get 14 offensive rebounds and get four kids in
double figures, you’re supposed to win those games,” said Georgetown head coach
Keith Brown. “Cal is extremely athletic. They get buckets off of transition,
and their post players are very very active."
The Bears had a 36-28 edge on the glass. Caldwell had seven of Cal’s 14 offensive rebounds and nine
total. Brandon led everyone with 13 rebounds as the Cal posts fought hard
against Georgetown’s big bodies inside.
“Every game is fun, but whenever
it’s a challenge, if someone has an advantage, it’s really fun for me because
it really makes you work hard and focus the entire game and just keep grinding
it out,” said Caldwell. “I had fun
playing all of their posts, they were all solid.”
The Hoyas (4-2) had their own All-Tournament selection,
All-American Sugar Rodgers, who had 20 points and a team-high six rebounds.
Forward Andrea White contributed 15.
The Bears rode Clarendon’s hot hand early, as the senior
guard opened with consecutive treys and scored 10 of Cal’s first 12 points.
Georgetown hung with the Bears, finding success in the paint
and by beating Cal down the floor. Sugar Rodgers then matched Clarendon’s
fireworks with her own, hitting a long three, followed by tough leaners that
brought gasps from the crowd. Her third basket in a row tied the game at 15.
The Bears had trouble inside early against the collapsing
Hoya defense anchored by 6’6 Sydney Wilson.
“What Georgetown does, and I credit them for this, is play
this style,” said Gottlieb. “They make it kind of a slower paced, very physical
game. In some ways they are what Rutgers
used to be in the Big East, that team where nothing’s going to be easy and it’s
going to be low scoring. So we knew that
coming in and we knew that possessions were going to be tough to score. We wanted to try and beat them up and down
the floor in transition and get plays at our pace, but we also knew that we
were going to have to execute and I thought our players were very patient and
to keep working and working. Inside the paint in the first half was a little
bit of a problem for us that we weren’t getting good looks, we weren’t getting
Eliza Pierre entered the game and made an immediate impact, hitting
Cal’s fourth three of the half. Her
swarming defense also led to a Boyd steal and fastbreak basket. Pierre
then stole the ball from Rodgers, who then picked up her second foul with 9:14
left and had to leave the game.
Scores inside by Gen Brandon and Talia Caldwell pulled Cal
ahead 24-15 at the 7:18 mark. Up to that
point, the Hoyas had only managed one rebound, but their marksmanship (seven of
eight) kept them in the game. Georgetown also played tough down low, matching
Cal push for shove.
Rodgers came back, hit a second-chance three, and the Hoyas
picked up offensively. Even with
Clarendon blanketing her, Rodgers often demanded a second defender once she
made her move to the basket, and she found open teammates, including a nifty
assist from her knees to Brittany Horne inside.
With 4:29 before the break, the Hoyas were down only 26-22,
when Samisha Powell was called for a flagrant foul for an elbow to Eliza
Pierre’s head. Pierre hit both freethrows, and in the ensuing possession,
Caldwell’s putback of a Clarendon’s miss brought Cal some breathing room,
“That didn’t bother us,” said Brown about the physical play.
“We’re the Big East. In the Big East, we play those types of games every
With the game now called more tightly by the officials,
Georgetown continued to attack the basket, earning fouls on the Bears.
Unfortunately for the Hoyas, they missed three free-throws during this stretch,
points that might have tied the game. Still, a tough turnaround jumper from
Rodgers closed the gap to 32-29. A Clarendon putback earned Cal a 34-29 lead at
The Hoyas continued their rally into the second half. Aided
by some Cal miscues, with two minutes gone, Georgetown pulled to 34-33 on a
basket by Powell.
The Bears were unfazed. Instead, they amped up their attack,
led by Boyd. Without scoring a point, the sophomore point guard took
over the game. First, she found Clarendon for a floater in the lane. A
defensive rebound and full-court pass led to an Eliza Pierre fastbreak basket.
Boyd then found Pierre for a three-pointer. Caldwell converted a Boyd dime on
the fastbreak. After a Clarendon steal, Boyd found Brandon inside, which led to
free-throws. Another Clarendon three, and Boyd had collected five assists in
less than three and half minutes, and the Bears had their first double-digit
lead of the game, 47-37, with 14:36 to go.
“Their point guard, she’s a delight,” said Brown. “We held
her in points, but she still found the people she’s supposed to find. “
“I see a lot more poise from
Boyd,” said Clarendon. “I didn’t know that she had fourteen assists to her six
turnovers, so I was amazed. She’s just a
lot more levelheaded and I think we depend on her a lot more. When you are a freshman, there is so much for
you to learn. I played point my freshman year and it’s a lot. I think she has done a great job of settling
down, rhythm dribbling more, and just making better decisions overall and being
poised, and very coachable. I think she
is maturing a lot.”
The Hoyas employed their own press and managed to whittle
the lead to 54-47 on a Brittany Horne trey with 10:13 to go, but Caldwell
answered with another score inside (on another Boyd assist), and Georgetown
never seriously threatened again.
Cal’s defense wore down Rodgers, as she managed to hit only
two of her twelve attempts in the second half. She did not get much help from her
“Our game plan was to make her
take tough shots,” Gottlieb said about Rodgers. “So we wanted no points from
the free-throw line--she went to the line four times there, and we wanted no
easy looks in transition, and then we wanted to make every shot a tough,
contested shot. She’s a really high
volume scorer, but the games where the team is not as good is when she’s not as
much of an efficient scorer and she takes a lot of shots to get the
points. But credit to her, she can get a
shot off at any time, so we wanted them to be contested all of the time. We were going to switch guard to guard to
keep people tight on her, and then when it was a post to guard screen, our
guards were going to have to do what we call lock and trail, and I think we did
a pretty darn good job. The couple of
open looks that she got were off the press, so I’ll take those on myself. We knew we were going to let her loose a bit,
kind of gamble and get the steal, but our players, Afure (Jemerigbe), Layshia,
and Eliza spent the most time on her, Boyd did some, and I think they
did a really good job.”
“I think that we are the type of
team that can wear you down,” agreed Clarendon. “We knew how good of a player
she was and coach was like, ‘Don’t worry, if she’s going to get the shot off
it’s okay.’ I know that as a player when
someone is constantly bumping you or constantly lock and trailing you, it wears
you down and you get tired, you have to work for your shots and it’s really
hard. I think we just made her work hard
every single possession, and that was our game plan, and it’s harder to hit
shots when you’re getting bumped all game."
After five games at home to start the season, Cal will now
take to the road for the next four contests.
“The five-game homestand has been great,” said Gottlieb. “We
love Haas, it feels comfortable, but I think this team loves traveling, it’s
fun. They are a good group to be
around. I think that I have been so
pleased with how we’ve handled games that quote unquote we’re supposed to win,
and I think we’ve really handled them.
But I think this team really relishes the big game and I think being
able to go into Old Dominion, who is one of the mot storied programs in
women’s college basketball, I told them that we’re going to have Charmin
(Smith) tell them some stories because that Stanford vs. Old Dominion game, her
senior year, just to get them learn about the history. And obviously, we did the schedule on
purpose, to be able to play a top five opponent early in the year. And so to be able to go to Old Dominion and
then Duke, who is right now number four in the country, I think these players
are going to be focused and ready to go and see what we can do on the road and
against some great competition.”
But before setting off on their trip, Cal will first relish their hard-earned victory against a good opponent.
“I think it just speaks to how much we have grown and how we
are shooting to an elite team,” said Clarendon. “These are the kinds of games
that separate us. Last year with the
Ohio State and Stanford games that we lost, the big games that we could have
won and would have put us over the edge, but now I think these are the kinds of
games that are going to separate us and make you elite.”
"I think Cal is a tremendous team and their ranking is well-deserved," said Brown. "They’re definitely one of the top teams in the country.”
*Eastern Washington beat Cal State Fullerton for third place. Guard Lexie Nelson scored 15 points and earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
*Cal outshot Georgetown 61% to 33% in the second half.
*Boyd's career-high 14 assists ties her with Milica Vukadinovic (3/13/93, vs. Oregon) for the 3rd highest single-game total in Cal history, behind only Eliza Sokolowska's games of 15 (2/9/95. vs. ASU) and 16 assists (1/11/96, vs. USC).
*The attendance was 1159.