Women's Hoops: Cal's Regular Season Comes To a Close With SoCal Losses

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Before the game began, the USC coaches made a cardinal error. And for thirty minutes Sunday in Los Angeles, a heavy underdog Cal team made the Women of Troy pay.

Unfortunately for the Bears, their spirit began to wither against USC's superior talent and offensive execution. Ebony Hoffman had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and made a number of big plays during a game-turning 20-2 run in the second half of USC's 69-58 win in the Pac-10 finale for both teams.

"Overall we played very well, but we had that lapse in the second half," said Cal coach Caren Horstmeyer. "We just didn't have the same intensity there, which is a pattern we need to stop."

During the pregame shootaround, one of the members of the USC coaching staff offhandedly mentioned to Horstmeyer that the Women of Troy were eagerly anticipating their first-round Pac-10 Tournament matchup with Oregon State. Horstmeyer bristled, knowing that matchup could only occur if USC won this game, and used it to create added inspiration for her team.

It seemed to work, as Cal (7-20, 2-16 in the Pac-10) held a four-point lead at halftime at 26-22.

"(That quote) totally pumped us up," said Cal freshman Leigh Gregory, who poured in 11 of her career-high 17 in that first half. "We came out to give them respect, but obviously they weren't giving us any and we wanted to take it out on them."

Cal's lead was 41-40 with 10 minutes to play, but USC (15-12, 11-7) grabbed the lead for good on a fastbreak layup by Aisha Hollans. Hollans, a Berkeley High graduate, finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for USC.

Shortly thereafter, Bears center Ami Forney picked up her fourth foul and Hoffman began to have her way inside. USC's size proved to be the difference in that huge run, as easy layups appeared where none had been for the first three-quarters of the game.

"Their ability to get the O-boards really hurt us in the end," said Horstmeyer after USC racked up 16 offensive rebounds.

Although it is a bit late to salvage much out of this season, the play of freshmen Gregory and Kristin Iwanaga may create a bright spot for years to come. While much of the team looked a bit lost when Forney went to the bench, it seemed the pair of first-year players singlehandedly tried to keep the Bears in the game. Iwanaga scored all 14 of her points in the second half on a variety of drives and jump shots.

"We showed our desire and will to win today," Gregory said. "I felt like me and K.I. never gave up today, and we hope that everyone will have that type of mentality out there."

In other words, leadership by example, which will be critical as the Bears take on UCLA (8-19, 4-14) in the 8-9 game of the Pac-10 Tournament Friday in Eugene, Ore.

This type of leadership was not evident in a rather flat 58-48 loss to the Bruins that started the Los Angeles trip last Friday.

The numbers were fairly ugly-no players in double figures for the Bears, more turnovers than field goals (which would occur again Sunday) and a startling ability to shoot 7-for-31 (23%) in each half.

"We seem to play to the level of our opponent, and we were out-competed, outhustled and outplayed in that game," Horstmeyer said after the UCLA game.

If the Bears can get a win Friday, they can take some solace from a season in which they matched their lowest Pac-10 win total in school history. Obviously, all parties concerned know it will take a better effort to defeat UCLA this weekend.


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