Cal Bridles Mustangs, Advances to Round Two

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The first half of the Cal women basketball team's first round WNIT game at Cal Poly didn't look like the 74-60 win it turned out to be for the Bears.

The game went back and forth; the scored was equalized six separate times and the lead changed three times before Layshia Clarendon's 3-pointer took the lead away from the Mustangs for good.

That one point gap with about ten minutes remaining didn't feel so permanent, however. Cal Poly tied the game twice more before Eliza Pierre's layup made the last lead switch of the game.

At halftime, the only thing tipping the scales in Cal's favor was a 50% 3-point percentage, over the Mustangs' 12.5 percent, and a four point lead. Both teams had 21 rebounds at the half.

"We were getting beat by dribble penetration in the first half," coach Joanne Boyle said. "We were even on the boards at the particular time. We looked disjointed a little bit. I feel like they were pushing tempo and momentum."

The Bears (18-15, 7-11 in the Pac-10) buckled down in the second half. A couple short runs turned that four-point gap into a double-digit lead for Cal within the half's first nine minutes.

It was Afure Jemerigbe's layup that got the Boyle's squad that 55-44 lead, and the buck stopped there. The Bears lead never fell below that 11-point gap, and reached a height of 17 points.

Talia Caldwell double-doubled for the 8th time this season, scoring 12 points and posting 17 rebounds.

Cal's success on the boards last night, 48 rebounds total, was a much-needed improvement from the game against UCLA that ended their Pac-10 tournament campaign, a 32-rebound game.

In spite of their aggressive rebounding, however, the Bears defensive efforts were far from what won them the game. The Mustangs (18-13) nearly matched Cal's rebounding with 42, mostly due to power forward Abby Bloetscher. The 6'3" junior got 12 rebounds, on top of her 13 points, earning a double-double for the Poly side.

The Bears also struggled to shut down Rachel Clancy, the Mustangs' offensively explosive guard who averages 16.8 points per game. The product of Limerick, Ireland, got 21 points through the Cal's net.

"We did a better job in the second half coming out offensively," Boyle said. "I wouldn't necessarily say we did a great job defensively. They missed some shots, but they were definitely looking to attack and take us off the dribble."

The only way the Bears could counter Cal Poly's two top scorers was by matching them with four. In addition to Caldwell, Clarendon, Jemerigbe, and Pierre scored double-digits. Clarendon led the pack with 20 points, another stark contrast from the UCLA game.

Sophomore DeNesha Stallworth did experience a drought, however, scoring just four points with a 13.3 field goal percentage.

It may not have been a beautiful game in all respects, but Cal will move on to defend its WNIT title.

"It is all about survive and advance," Boyle said.

The Bears will face Colorado in the second round. The Buffaloes made it to the Big 12 championship this year, where they lost to Kansas, 75-41. That was their last game in the conference, as they will be competing against Cal in the Pac-12 next year.


Alex Matthews covers women's basketball. Contact her at [email protected]

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