Cal crushes Vanguard in exhibiton

The first time Lindsay Gottlieb saw collegiate action in Haas Pavilion this year, she was watching a Cal volleyball match. When the announcer called the Bears’ lineup, the new Cal women’s basketball coach suddenly realized that this same scenario would unfold in front of her own team soon.

“I got the chills when the lights went off,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Gosh, what is this going to be like when it’s for us and we’re playing?’ And it was better than I could have imagined.”

It’s impossible to say what Gottlieb originally had in mind, but it doesn’t get much better than a 99-58 drubbing of Vanguard in Thursday night’s exhibition game.

“You take it for what it’s worth,” Gottlieb said. “To me it was finally just good to get this one out of the way, let them get the uniforms on and be able to move forward.”

The Bears dominated the Lions in the exhibition match, taking advantage of the opportunity to empty their bench and showcase different strategies.

Although Cal lacks a single senior on the roster this year, returning players stepped up to the challenge of asserting leadership and presence on the court. In 20 minutes center Talia Caldwell racked up nine rebounds and a block, anchoring her team beneath the basket on both ends of the court. Sophomore guard Lindsay Sherbert was one of six Bears to hit double digits. Gennifer Brandon, who redshirted last season due to injuries, seemed eager to make up for lost time. The forward made both of her field goal attempts and was 6-for-7 from the free throw line in her 15 minutes on the court.

But it was the freshmen who stood out. Eager to cut the reins and experience their first college game, newcomers such as Reshanda Gray, Justine Hartman and Brittany Boyd all racked up at least 10 points as well.

Boyd in particular proved her worth. The Berkeley native remembers coming to Haas during high school and telling herself she would one day play under those lights. By the time she had suited up and was sitting on the sidelines, she was a bundle of raw nerves and energy.

“The nerves went away as soon as Coach G called my name,” Boyd said. “I couldn’t be nervous on the court. When you’re nervous you make too many mistakes. So I just had to be composed and focused.”

She sank 18 points worth of breakaway shots and layups with such confidence that in 20 minutes of play she established herself as an effective guard.

In fact, every player who took the court exuded an energy that left Gottlieb in awe.

“They have an energy about them that is something that I could never coach,” she said. “I just hope to bring it out of them.”

However, at times that energy worked against Cal, leaving them so anxious to get to the ball that they gave up turnovers or left defenders open on defense.

As a smaller team, Vanguard relied on dribble drives and zone defense to emphasize its mobility and speed and make its players more difficult to defend. On the other hand, Cal had focused mainly on man-to-man defense in the past few weeks, so running a zone wasn’t always the natural go-to for the players.

Consistency in shots and controlling tempo were two areas of play that needed improvement.

“We’re a team that wants to play fast,” Gottlieb said. “It’s in our nature to get out and run. I think we’re going to have to learn to control that tempo a little bit, when do we push and attack, and when do we hold back.”

But overall, the exhibition game was just that: an exhibition, a chance to finally play a regulation game — and rack up a solid win — after months of training.

And for Gottlieb, starting out the season on such a high note certainly shows promise for her own freshman season under the lights at Haas Pavilion.

Brandon and Boyd both noted her ability to fire up the team.

“Coach G, she got swag,” Boyd said.