Winning Results Fail To Show Up Due To Lack Of Consistency

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There is much to be happy about in the land of Cal women's basketball as the second semester kicks off.

The Bears have allowed the least points in the Pac-10. They have stretches against top teams like Georgia and Oregon where they look like they can play with anybody.

The team has none of the infighting that can swallow a program whole, like it has in Pullman, Washington. Young players like Leigh Gregory and LaTasha O'Keith are getting a baptism by fire and running with it.

Then there is the bad news. As of Jan. 17, the Bears had lost 11 of their previous 12 games.

They are ninth in the conference scoring, averaging just over 58 points a game. And as young as they are, the Bears have shown a disturbing trend of matching inspired starts with flat finishes.

"This team is working very hard to maintain our intensity, but you see what happens when the intensity and the ball pressure are lacking," head coach Caren Horstmeyer said.

What happens is halftime leads against powers like the Ducks and Lady Dogs become demoralizing losses.

What happens is that opponents can throw everything and the kitchen sink at senior and leading scorer Ami Forney, and she can be pressured into ugly 11-turnover games.

What happens is that the Bears can go nearly through their list of Pac-10 opponents without earning a win.

"We know we've been up-and-down, and we're trying to figure out why," O'Keith said .

Forney was the unquestioned leader of this team from Day One, and is doing her best to shoulder the burden. Her numbers have improved to 16.3 points and nearly 6.8 rebounds a game in Pac-10 play.

The games aren't getting easier, so Forney will have to maintain her level of play for the Bears to have a shot to be one of the top-eight conference squads and qualify for the Pac-10 Tournament.

Joining Forney in the frontcourt are the frosh Gregory (9.1 ppg) and junior Amber White, who paces the team with 3.8 assists per game.

Three other newcomers have seen significant time up front-Kiki Williams, who gets her 5.7 ppg in less than 17 minutes per game, Olga Volkova, who has bounced back from injury and uses her 6-foot-4 frame effectively inside and Audrey Watler, who had a stretch in early January where she made 15 of the 17 shots she took in limited action.

Freshman point guard Kristin Iwanaga has seen her ups and downs in her first year, leading the team in minutes played (30.6 minutes per game) and three-pointers made with 11.

It is tough for a first-year point guard to see the pressure-packed style of basketball played in these parts, and Iwanaga is adjusting as well as can be expected.

O'Keith has become a vocal leader in just her sophomore year, somehow not surprising given the amazing youth on the squad. She is second on the team with an average of 10.7 ppg during conference play, usually on an array of difficult penetrating moves to the basket.

She, along with Forney are the only Bears averaging double figures in points in Pac-10 play.

The depth at guard is less defined, with local product Nicol Berry (1.4 steals per game) contributing good hustle and defense and Jackie Lord returning from a knee injury and chipping in with some desperately needed long-distance accuracy. The freshman has made six of her 18 tries from behind the arc.

Everyone involved with this program knew that such a young team would experience growing pains on its road to success. How the Bears maintain their drive and intensity for 40 minutes a game and for the next six weeks will determine just how successful the 2001-2002 season will be.


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