Three shots in the final seconds and not one of them falls.
The Cal players looked stunned in the moments after the buzzer sounded on their 77-75 loss to 12th-ranked Ohio State at Haas Pavilion on Saturday.
Three losses this season. All to ranked teams. By a combined total of six points.
This one might have been more brutal than the others because it happened at home, it happened after the Bears battled back from a 14-point halftime deficit against the unbeaten Buckeyes, because it seemed like if they had played only a minute of two longer, the Bears would have finished the job.
“I think this was a litmus test that told us that we are not quite there yet, not quite where we want to be,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said after the game. “We want to be an elite team. We want to be a top-10 team. We want to be where Ohio State is and where other teams are now. We’re not quite there yet, but it does feel good to know that is within reach.”
The Bears look fast, deep, aggressive and talented. Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray are dynamic, impact freshmen. Layshia Clarendon, Eliza Pierre play with the confidence of veterans. Gennifer Brandon, with her 24 points and 24 rebounds, plays as if her last name should be Ogwumike.
They look like a strong candidate to be the second-best team in the Pac-12 with the conference season just a week or so away.
They look like they are this-close.
Archive for the 'Cal' Category
Join me for a live blog of one of the biggest games in the Bay Area this season. It’s going to be a big couple of days with Tennessee coming into town on Tuesday.
Lindsay Gottlieb is returning to Cal. Joanne Boyle’s former lead assistant has been named her successor and will be introduced today at a press conference in Berkeley.
Gottlieb made a few minutes for Leftcoasthoops.com as she drove from the airport in San Francisco to Haas Pavilion.
Q: What’s the day been like for you so far?
A: I’m making phone calls in the car. I’ve been on the phone all morning with incoming recruits and current players. Today is going to be a total whirlwind.
Q: Are you surprised at how this all turned out?
A: I am really legitimately surprised. In this professional, you know things happen and they can happen quickly. When I took the job at Santa Barbara, I thought it was a place that I would be at for a long time. I was fortunate to get a job like that and you are in the present and you enjoy where you are. And that’s where my mindset was. Honestly, each year I’ve gotten a call or two. And I’ve been able to sincerely say ‘I’m flattered, and thanks but no thanks.”
Q: But Cal was a different situation?
A: Cal has always been a special place for me and I thought, maybe in the back of my mind, ‘Someday’. Joanne and I talked as soon as Virginia contacted her. And I wanted to be her friend and talk her through her decision, but I started thinking, ‘Wow, this could affect me.”
Q: How is the Cal program different than when you left?
A: When we arrived at Cal six years ago, the program had experienced a lot of losing seasons in a row and we were changing a culture. We had a group of veterans who had been there, and this group of precocious incoming freshmen who were used to winning. We came in setting a mentality and changing a culture. Now I feel like I’m walking into a program of national prominence that is at a moment in time…where hopefully we will springboard to something better. This is not about rebuilding. This is about taking this group and believing in them and me and each other.
Q: How familiar are you with the players in the program?
A: I certainly wasn’t studying my media guide on the way up. To some degree or another, I was involved with recruiting them, especially the current sophomores. I was involved in their recruitment and some of them, I tried to recruit to UCSB. But I don’t have a connection with them. I think that’s going to allow me to come in and bring a burst of energy. I think that’s going to be a good thing.
Q: Do you feel like you have to come in and stabilize the program?
A: Anytime there’s change or uncertainty, there’s a state of flux. But the one thing I’ve heard over and over, thanks to Sandy (Barbour) and Theresa (Kuehn), is what a good job they’ve done keeping everybody together and in the same direction. I think this is a group that is together and excited to move forward and I can come in and form relationships with them and make them believe in me.
I don’t think I have to stabilize anything. I feel more like I have to corral everybody, get everybody moving into the same direction. Priority No. 1 will be forming that bond and belief. This program should not have to take three steps back to move forward.
Sorry I’ve been away for a bit. Trying to settle in after whirlwind of NCAA Touranment and WNBA and new gig as a regular contributor for espnW.
Here’s the link to the story on the Cal website on Gottlieb’s hiring. Press conference tomorrow at 3.
I’ll be there.
Correction: Casey Morris plays at Texas Tech. Clearly have typed Texas A&M too many times in the past week.
Joanne Boyle has accepted the head coaching job at the University of Virginia, leaving Cal after six seasons marked by the renewal of a program and a number of painful setbacks.
Boyle leaves Cal with a 137-64 record. She led the Bears for four straight NCAA appearances and the WNIT in the last two seasons, including the WNIT title in 2010. Boyle leaves having had the most successful coaching tenure in the history of the Cal’s women’s program.
Boyle came to Cal from Richmond in 2005, replacing Caren Horstmeyer. She inherited a stellar recruiting class that including five local stars – Oakland Tech’s Devanei Hampton and Alexis Gray-Lawson, Modesto’s Ashley Walker, Berkeley’s Shantrell Sneed and San Francisco’s Jene’ Morris.
From there, her tenure was a contrast of high and low moments.
- 2006 – Boyle led the Bears to a winning record in her first season (18-12), and the program’s first NCAA appearance in 13 seasons. Cal fell in the first round to St. John’s.
- 2006-07 – Boyle named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. Hampton named Pac-10 Player of the Year.
- 2007 – Boyle turned down the opportunity to take over the Duke program after her second year at Cal, choosing to stay in Berkeley.
- 2007-08. The Bears set a school record for wins (27-7) and Pac-10 wins (15).
- 2008-2009 – With Walker and Hampton leading the way, Cal finishes a strong second to Stanford in the Pac-10, defeating the Final Four-bound Cardinal at Maples. That game remains Stanford’s last loss to a Pac-10 opponent. The Bears earn the highest national ranking in school history, spending four weeks at No. 3 and reached the Sweet 16, falling to No. 1 seed Connecticut.
- 2009 – Boyle brings in the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class.
- 2010 – Starting a lineup that includes four freshman and fifth-year senior Lawson, Cal fails to make the NCAA field, but makes a long run to the WNIT Tournament title.
- 2006 – Jene’ Morris transfers after the Boyle’s first season in Berkeley, ends up at San Diego State, leading the Aztecs to the Sweet 16 in her senior season and is now playing in the WNBA.
- 2007 – Lenita Sanford, the Bears top incoming recruit, does not meet NCAA requirements and is unable to play for the Bears. She ends up at junior college in Texas.
- 2008 – Shawn Lei Kuehu, the Bears top recruit, decides she does not want to come to Cal and chooses to stay home, playing at the University of Hawaii.
- 2009 – Three players – Casey Morris, Kelsey Adrian and Angelei Aguirre transfer after the 2008-09 season. Morris is a starter at Texas Tech. Adrian and Aguirre both ended up at UC Santa Barbara, coached by former Boyle lead assistant Lindsey Gottlieb.
- 2009- Tierra Rodgers, the top recruit in a strong recruiting class, collapses following practice and is diagnosed with a heart condition that ends her career.
- 2010-2011 – The Bears struggled to a 18-16 record this past season and a sixth-place finish in the Pac-10 at 7-11, the lowest finish in Boyle’s tenure.
- 2011 – Leading scorer DeNesha Stallworth announces that she is transferring.
Wrapping this season up with a bow and saying thank you to everybody for all of your support.
Special thanks to Deb Gumbley, who provided me with photos, a bottle of wine and kind words whenever I needed them.
More news to come in the next few days, no doubt.
Stanford. If the Cardinal are still feeling, four days later, like they missed their opportunity to win a national title, they’re entitled to that. It certainly feels that way.
Hard truths: Texas A&M was a bad matchup for Stanford and the Cardinal did not play nearly as well as they needed to.
Excessive turnovers, foul trouble, top players who didn’t contribute as much to the cause as they needed to …all true, and yet Stanford lost by one point to a talented, motivated Aggies team that went on to win it all.
It was tough to watch Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen come away without at least the opportunity to play for the title.
Mel Murphy’s strong finish in her final game was a silver-lining.
Cal. Thursday’s breaking news. A local TV station in Virginia reports that the deal is done and Boyle is the Cavaliers’ new head coach.
The news that DeNesha Stallworth left was the first blow. Then the rumors that Boyle was leaving for the job in Virginia. Boyle’s statement from the Monday night that said “I am not the Virginia coach” sure looked like semantics.
This past season was rough for Boyle and the Bears. She could not push the right buttons to get a young, but experienced team to play at another level. She admitted that. She also publicly questioned their work ethic and their heart and probably didn’t win points with her players or athletic director Sandy Barbour.
Is that enough of a reason to leave? Or is it merely time?
Successors? Temple’s Tonya Cardoza is on the wish list of Cal fans.
UCLA. Nikki Caldwell left for LSU and the lure of an SEC job and a huge paycheck. Who takes that job? So far, it’s pretty quiet in Westwood. Even the UCLA message boards are quiet.
Washington. Kevin McGuff comes in as the fourth straight male coach hired in the Pac-10 in the last three seasons. First it was Michael Cooper, then Paul Westhead at Oregon and Scott Rueck at Oregon State.
McGuff appears to have gotten out of Xavier along with his two top players before the rebuilding began. He certainly has a rebuilding job to do in Seattle. But McGuff is a good recruiter and he’ll bring a new energy to the Huskies program.
USC. The Women of Troy were good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament field. Their run to the WNIT Final proved that. But they didn’t play well enough down the stretch and that is the problem – again – that coach Michael Cooper needs to address.
It’s hard to imagine Cal coach Joanne Boyle being more frustrated with her team than she likely is right this moment.
The Bears hustled home Sunday after being swept in Washington for the first time since Boyle took over the program six years ago.
Her team is on a major roller-coast ride. A 30-point loss to Stanford is followed by a home sweep against the the Arizona schools and then this.
“The whole trip has been evaluating ourselves,” said Boyle after the game in quotes provided by the Cal athletic department. “I just talked to them about what happened in a week’s time. From going from the Arizona weekend to this weekend and what’s changed. I don’t know. I’ve said this all year – we’re not a team that’s competing. We’re not working hard, we don’t play together. I’m uncertain of what’s going on. I’m there to help them. I don’t think it’s offenses or defenses. It’s either you work hard, like we do in spurts, and you choose to do that for 40 minutes or you don’t.”
Boyle doesn’t want to use youth as an excuse. This is an experienced Cal team in many ways.
“We won the WNIT Championship last year, and four of those kids played in that,” Boyle said. “I don’t think we’re in youthful team in that we don’t have kids who have played major minutes. For the freshmen in the mix, I get that. But our sophomores have played 30 some minutes a game for a year and a half.”
There is no break here for the Bears. The L.A. schools are coming to town, and while Cal will be able to settle into the comforts at home, the margin is slim against the second- and third-best teams in the Pac-10, a pair of teams that look NCAA Tournament-worthy.
“We just have to bounce back,” DeNesha Stallworth said. “Coach said this is the first time that we went 0-2 in the Washingtons. This is something that we just have to take pride in and come back next week stronger versus the L.A. schools. When adversity hits us, we just don’t know how to act. I don’t know if it comes with youth or growth or I don’t know what it is. For us personally, we just have to learn how to come together as a team and just figure things out.”
Cal coach Joanne Boyle was walking out to her car in the parking garage underneath Haas Pavilion when a group of young fans shouted her name, and said, “Good game coach!”
Boyle winced, shrugged and smiled.
She knows better.
Her young Bears (8-4) took it on the chin in the Pac-10 opener Sunday, losing to No. 9 Stanford 78-45. It was the biggest margin of victory in the series since a 41-point loss by Cal on March 5, 2005, predating Boyle’s arrival in Berkeley.
They were outsized, outhustled and outplayed. The first of those things the Bears can’t truly control. But the others…
Boyle challenged her team’s work ethic and desire after the ugly televised loss.
“If my team can find a way to play hard and decide they want to compete every night, I think we can be good,” Boyle said. “But right now we are struggling with identity and a work ethic that’s hurting us.”
Boyle isn’t under any illusions that her team has more talent than the Cardinal, who defeated the No. 4 team (Xavier) and of course, No. 1 Connecticut as precursors to the beating they handed her team Sunday.
But she believes her team is better than that final score. Better than a 23-rebound deficit. Better than getting outscored by 20 points in the paint and 17 points off turnovers. Better than 34.5 percent shooting from the floor and a 2-for-8 performance at the free-throw line.
“It’s not our talent,” Boyle said. “We told the team at the beginning of the game that there are three things you can control: transition defense – we’re fast, they shouldn’t be able to out-run us – offensive rebounds, just get a body on somebody, and contested three-point shots.”
Stanford finished with eight points on the fast break, an 18-10 advantage on the offensive boards and seven 3-pointers, five of them in the second half.
Jeanette Pohlen led Stanford with 15 points. Nneka Ogwumike had 14 until she left the game with a shoulder injury in the second half and did not return. She will be evaluated this week, but it is not believed to be serious. Stanford had five scorers in double-figures.
“They are big, but how many of our bodies were on their bodies?” Boyle said.
Cal is young. The Bears are starting four sophomores and a freshman and all of those sophomores saw significant playing time last year.
There is size inside with DeNesha Stallworth, Talia Caldwell and Rama N’Diaye, though what appears now to be a season-ending injury to Gennifer Brandon, test the depth a little bit.
But Stallworth, the team’s leading scorer and rebounding coming in, was a non-factor Sunday.
She was 0-for-2 from the floor, finished with two points at the free-throw line, one defensive rebound, three turnovers and four personal fouls.
Boyle was asked to characterize Stallworth’s game and she declined except to say that both Caldwell and N’Diaye managed to get some looks in the post. Both finished with 10 points.
This is a team in need of leadership, but Boyle said the personalities aren’t there.
Her players, she said, “haven’t grabbed it yet.”
“They just need to go. No seniors are just going to appear for us. They need to decide they are going to (lead),” Boyle said. “When you are young, I think you always look to defer to older kids. There is no deferring. It’s them. It’s a group of freshmen and sophomores that are going to have to decide if they are going to do it together.”
What was particularly damning was Boyle’s criticism of her team’s work ethic.
“This has been a struggle for us. The thing I’ve really been proud of our teams in the past is that we always worked hard. We worked hard, we had a passion,” Boyle said. “We don’t have an identity this year, 11-12 games in, and we are a passive team right now and it’s really hurting us.
“You can definitely chalk it up to some youth, but not to give them an excuse on that. They are sophomores, but they are not sophomores who have sat on the bench. They are sophomores who have played.”
Boyle said perhaps her players are “too nice to each other” in practice. They are not steeling each other for what is going to be a grind in the Pac-10 with improved teams all over the conference.
“They need to compete. We don’t have a competitiveness about us just yet…consistently. And you’re not even going to be in a game with a team like this unless you are going to compete.”
Lauren Greif is sitting on the Stanford bench and not looking all that comfortable. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Greif spent four years as a starting guard at Cal and now she works as an intern on Tara VanDerveer’s staff at Stanford.
Greif took a few moments before Sunday’s Stanford-Cal Pac-10 opener to talk about her mixed feelings on this day.