After Convincing Exhibition Slate, Bears Open Up Regular Season

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It's Thursday afternoon in Haas Pavilion and the four standouts from the Cal women's basketball's 2005 recruiting class have just spent the past half hour conversing about everything from spending nights at each other's apartments to their recent trip to Africa.

But it's finally time to discuss the main reason for which they are gathered together. The 2008-09 season, their final campaign as a unit, finally tips off today against Albany.

According to the seniors, though, the season already began two weeks ago with their 95-51 win over Chico State.

"We were excited for Chico and excited to play," forward Ashley Walker said. "Those were real games to us, even though they didn't count, they were real because we weren't playing against the scout guys."

The No. 9 Bears went 2-0 in exhibition play, winning their other game against Vanguard by a score of 87-37.

Coach Joanne Boyle was particularly impressed with the transition play in Cal's game against the Lions and will look to have her team push the ball more against the Great Danes today and Nevada on Sunday.

"We definitely want to play up-tempo and look to run," Boyle said. "If they press, we'll try to make good adjustments under the pressure. Break the press, and if not, take care of the ball, and get into the sets we want to get into."

The undersized Bears, still without posts Devanei Hampton and Rama N'diaye, used their speed and quickness on both ends of the floor to pull away in the two exhibition games. Ultimately, though, the defense was the biggest key as Cal held its first two opponents to just 24.1 percent shooting from the floor.

Walker, who was named the top power forward in the nation by on Thursday, has been a force on defense and leads the team in blocks and is tied for first in steals.

"We always seem to find ways to score, but we can always get better on defense, and that's what going to win us games," Walker said. "If we can really hone in on that this weekend, we'll be fine."

In addition to improving on defense, the Bears hope to get stronger in the rebounding department. Despite Cal out-boarding its first two opponents, 90-49, Boyle and the players felt there were breakdowns in boxing out.

With both Albany and the Wolfpack being describe as "long and athletic" by Boyle, the Bears will look to jump out and control the paint early.

"It's going to be very important for us to set the tone and establish a presence on the inside," senior forward Shantrell Sneed said. "If we can get used to outworking our opponents now, when we have an advantage, we'll be used to working that much harder down the road and it'll put us in a better position."

For Cal, it'll be all about execution this season. With the team returning all of their starters from last year, the learning process has been cut drastically. This has led to a faster pace in both practices and games.

"The kids, because they're older and they understand the game and my expectations, we've been able to put a lot of things in more early," Boyle said.


Contact Jimmy Tran at [email protected]

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