Bears Win Cal Classic over Georgetown

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By Viet Nguyen, Staff Writer
Posted Nov 24, 2012
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2014 BearInsider.com


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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 season.” 

“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 calls.”

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, 30-22.

“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 night.”

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 break.

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 teammates.

“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.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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