Cal Headed for Southland

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The Cal women's basketball team didn't expect to embark on its final road trip of the season with a 4-10 conference mark.

Despite this sobering realization, the Bears (9-15 overall) are trying to adhere to what coach Marianne Stanley has made her mantra this season.

"All season long I've been trying to sell the idea of staying positive," Stanley said. "We realize that some of our difficulties were injuries, but our team has the character and pride to deal successfully with the adversity."

In order to salvage what was left of the year after its game against Stanford, Cal players agreed to look at the last six games as a whole new season. Heading down to face USC and UCLA at 2-0, the new outlook appears to have worked so far.

Tonight's matchup with the Trojans at 7 p.m. at the Sports Arena should prove to be anything but emotionless. USC (12-12, 7-7 in the Pac-10) is looking to avenge its previous 81-64 loss to the Bears.

"I thought our last matchup with USC was really a turning point in the season," Stanley said. "We were coming off a big win against (Washington) and if we have any chance of succeeding we need to play as well, if not better, down there than we did up here."

If Cal's recent play is any indicator of how the team will fare against the Trojans, the Bears are in a relatively good position. In its last matchup against Washington State, Cal shook off its previous shooting woes and managed to end the second half shooting 52 percent.

The Bears' improved offensive effort was matched by increased defensive intensity. After missing starter Ami Forney due to a stress fracture for a majority of the season, the power forward has made a big impact on the team in the last two games.

"Ami helps us inside as a rebounder and is a huge

defensive force," Stanley said. "Her offensive game is a little slower to come around, but her presence on the floor is immeasurable."

Forney, along with guard Courtney Johnson, both need to post peak performances if Cal has a chance to upset USC. Johnson missed a few games with complications due to a concussion, but still leads the Bears in scoring with 11.6 points per game.

For Cal to garner a win over the Trojans, the team needs to focus on halting USC scoring threat Tashara Carter. The junior center has notched double figures in 10 of the Trojans' last 14 games.

"I am really impressed with how far USC has come since we last played them," Stanley said. "They have had huge wins against UCLA, Arizona and Oregon - they are definitely going to be coming out with a lot of intensity."

Emotions will continue to run high when the Bears take on UCLA (15-9, 9-5) at Pauley Pavilion Sunday at 2 p.m. The Bruins have been struggling of late and are returning home after being swept by the Oregon schools last weekend.

UCLA needs the win against Cal in order to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament - the Bruins have lost five of their last eight games and need to finish strong if they want an invite to the Big Dance.

In the Bears' previous game against UCLA, Cal led at the half but was unable to hang on to the lead and lost, 74-67. A second-half slump hindered the Bears' chances of upsetting the Bruins, and if the team is serious about ending the season 6-0, they will need to focus on playing hard for the duration of the game.

"If you look at how we played against Washington State, I think that we played as cohesively as we have in a month," Stanley said. "We led UCLA at the half the last time we played them, and if we keep this recent level of play up, this could be a winnable game."

Maylana Martin is definitely a player who could stop Cal from realizing its goal of finishing 6-0. Martin recently became the fifth basketball player in UCLA history to score 2,000 points, and scored the most points in a Pac-10 game this season when she notched 39 points against Oregon last week.

According to Stanley, the most important thing heading into the weekend is keeping a positive mental state.

"Attitude is everything," Stanley said. "We are playing well (and) feeling more confident, and with these two things I think we can do what we set out to do - win games."


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