Cal breezes past George Washington to best start in program history

Michael Tao/Staff

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The Bears might not have had their best shooting touch with a 47% field goal percentage on Friday night, but they did more than enough to  close out the year with a victory against George Washington.

Cal defended its perfect home record in Haas Pavilion with a 70-43 victory. The victory gave head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and her players the best start in program history with a 10-1 record.

The Bears ended the year with a four-game winning streak, showing no signs of slowing down since coming off their solid 88-79 win against then No. 19 Kansas last Friday.

Center Talia Caldwell was instrumental in setting the tone early. She scored six of Cal’s first eight points, singlehandedly outscoring the Colonials to a 8-4 lead in the first three minutes of the tilt.

Then fellow senior and guard Layshia Clarendon took over the game. The team captain, coming off a season-high 28 points against the Jayhawks, kept the Bears’ high pace rolling. She scored the next six points, displaying the all-around skills that have garnered her so much preseason attention. At the 12:18 mark, Clarendon nailed a jumper, a fastbreak layup and two free throws in succession to extend the Bears’ lead to 16-7.

“”Sometimes I’m taken back by it,” Clarendon said in a postgame interview with Cal Athletics. “I think we appreciate it a lot more, seeing all the pieces falling into place. No one is satisfied though. We’re just starting.”

Then after Clarendon’s hot start, Caldwell picked up right where Clarendon left off. After forward Gennifer Brandon’s jumper to give Cal a 18-9 advantage, Caldwell added five more to Cal’s scoreboard in less than half a minute; after a three-point play, Caldwell converted a layup at the 9:06 mark.

With the rest of the Bears lineup heating up, a 23-11 Cal lead at the end of Caldwell’s heroics ballooned to a 39-22 blowout at the end of the first half.

The Colonials mustered a small threat to start the second half to narrow the 17-point deficit. The Bears gave up several turnovers in the first few minutes and failed to finish at the rim, despite its  numerous offensive rebounds and second chances.

“”GW mixed defenses very well,” Gottlieb said. “They kept us off balance a little bit. It was not our best offensive display but they battled through it.”

The Colonials’ attempt at a comeback was short-lived, as they cut their deficit only up to 43-32 with 14 minutes left. But Gottlieb’s signature suffocating full-court press defense ensured that would be as close as they can get. Then for the next nine minutes and 37 seconds, the Bears shut out the George Washington offense to zero points while adding 20 points of their own.

By the time the Colonials finally scored at the 4:37 mark with a layup from forward Megan Nipe, Gottlieb replaced the starters for the bench players for them to comfortably wrap up the blowout victory in ease.

In Cal’s 70 total points, the seniors Caldwell and Clarendon contributed nearly half of the score. Caldwell finished with a career-high 19 points, and Clarendon with 12 points. At the boards, Caldwell and Clarendon finished first and second respectively in rebounds with eight and seven respectively.

“I think we have unlimited potential,” Gottlieb said. “We’re taking the court expecting to win. We have a goal of winning the Pac-12 title, and I say this even knowing Stanford is the top-ranked team.”

The Bears will kick off the new year with their first Pac-12 game of the season against Utah on Jan. 4 at Salt Lake City.

Vincent Tzeng covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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