At the 2:47 mark, Vanguard senior Chelsea Alfafara found herself surrounded by the Cal full court press. The entire first half, the Bears had smothered the Lions’ offense, rarely letting Vanguard out of their own half.
With nowhere to go, Alfara was forced to call a timeout. Tenured Lion head coach Russ Davis’s expression said it all — his team was out of its element against the No. 13 Bears.
Although the Bears’ season tip-off sits eight days away, Haas Pavillion got their first glimpse of Cal women’s basketball team in their 98-57 victory over Vanguard Thursday night.
The Lions, coming of a 23-7 season in the NAIA, were overmatched in size and speed from the start. Second-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb took full advantage, employing a full court press from the outset.
Vanguard had no answer and floundered under the constant pressure of the Bears. In the first four minutes, the Lions were trapped in their defensive half. During that span, Cal forced three turnovers and turned them into easy layups.
By the 11:11 mark in the first half, the Bears quickly built their lead to 20 point, converting much of the 25 total Vanguard turnovers into fast break points.
As the game settled in, Cal elected to change to a halfcourt defense. The team’s pick-and-roll defense against the small Vanguard players stood out and was a main reason that Vanguard only shot 40 percent.
“If you get past our line of pressure, it’s not a basket (that is there, but) we have a second and third defensive options there,” Gotltieb said.
Offensively the Bears put on a show, shooting a stellar 57.1 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Brittany Boyd showed off her athleticism throughout the night, stealing balls in the full court press and facilitating the offense.
“I think that I am more under control,” Boyd said. “I understand the offense a lot better now and the defense a lot better, and I understand what the coaches are asking from me so I think that I am better at communication between the coaches and me.”
Boyd finished with 16 points on seven-of-12 shooting to go along with six assists, a solid night considering that she was often subbed out to give bench players time.
Junior Gennifer Brandon and senior Talia Caldwell used their height advantage on the glass, often keeping offensive possessions alive with rebounding. Brandon posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Caldwell put up 17 points and seven rebounds, both in limited playing time.
One of the offensive highlights of the second half was a play made by junior guard Avigiel Cohen off a rebound. Cohen’s one-handed collection on the baseline led to a no look pass to the streaking sophomore Reshanda Gray, who easily put away another two of her team-leading 19 points.
The bench showed their approval with the play, jumping to their feet.
“I think this group has been excited to play again since we lost in South Bend, but what I’m happy about is that we have been working on things since then,” Gottlieb said. “I think we saw some of those things tonight,”
Austin Crochetiere covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]