Bears Look to Muzzle Huskies to Start Tournament

Photo: DeNesha Stallworth is the Cal women's basketball team's leading scorer at 14 points per game. The sohpomore was limited in the Bears' last game, however, to zero points.
Sean Goebel/Staff
DeNesha Stallworth is the Cal women's basketball team's leading scorer at 14 points per game. The sohpomore was limited in the Bears' last game, however, to zero points.

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It's well-known in college basketball that it's hard to beat a team three times in one season.

The Cal women's basketball team has lost to Washington twice already. But the Bears are confident things will be different this time around when they they face off in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament at 7:15 on Wednesday night at the Galen Center.

"I think it's the confidence we have going into this game," senior guard Rachelle Federico said. "Just good chemistry we've built these last two games, and I think it's going to be perfect going into the Pac-10 tournament."

Cal (15-14, 7-11 in the Pac-10), the No. 6 seed in the Los Angeles tournament, has gained confidence simply by winning one game. After losing six consecutive games in February, the Bears have played significantly better in their last two contests.

On Feb. 26, they beat Oregon State to end the streak, and last Thursday, Cal caused No. 2 Stanford to sweat a little bit, since the Cardinal was only up by five points at halftime.

Despite the fact that the Huskies (11-16, 6-12), the seventh seed, have lost five of their last six games, they have had Cal's number this year.

On Jan. 16, the Huskies beat the Bears, 57-48, in Seattle. Cal was actually up at halftime, but a 19-7 Washington run to open the second half crippled the Bears' chances. They made just six baskets after the break and missed all 10 of their 3-pointers.

The team's second matchup saw Cal fall behind early, scoring just 19 points and going 0-for-8 on their 3-point tries in the first half. A competitive second half did little to sway the margin, as Washington won, 60-49.

The x-factor in the two teams' games thus far has been the play of Kristi Kingma and Sarah Morton.

Washington's pair of upperclassmen guards have been money against the Bears. The duo combined to shoot 5-of-10 from behind the arc in the first matchup and totaled 27 points. In the second, Kingma and Morton were even more lethal, scoring 16 and 18 points, respectively.

"I've been non-stop on the computer, on the TV watching them and seeing what they're not good at, what they're good at," Federico said. "I think put a little more pressure on them than they're used to, make them make tougher decisions."

Kingma and Morton are pure shooters. Kingma, for instance, shoots 40.1 percent from behind the arc. According to Federico, the two guards both utilize one-dribble pull up jumpers.

Unlike the previous matchups, Kingma and Morton won't be able to relax on defense against the Cal. The Bears' guard play has improved over the last few weeks and one reason for that is Federico.

The Tucson, Ariz., native has started the last two games - her first two career starts - and scored career highs in both games. "Mooch" scored 15 points against the Beavers, and then topped that mark the next game with 16.

"I think it's just leadership, giving Layshia (Clarendon) some help with that," Federico said. "Just (spreading) the floor a little bit for our post to have one-on-one touches they're not used to."

"We deserve to be the number two or three team in the Pac-10, so this is a chance to go out with a good taste in (our) mouth."


Jonathan Kuperberg covers women's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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