California used a 16-2 run during the first eight minutes of the second half to break open a nine-point game.
Fresno State had no answer early on for Cal forward Ashley Walker, who scored 15 of her game-high 21 points in the first half. Whether it was inside or outside, Walker found a way to score.
“Now since I’m a senior and this my last time going to the tournament, I kind of feel like I might as well leave everything I have out on the floor in these next couple of games,” Walker said after the game in the post game press conference.
And she did just that. Diving for loose balls, blocking shots, or giving the smaller Bulldog defenders fits, Walker was unstoppable. However, Fresno State head coach Adrian Wiggins believes that overall, his team defended her well.
“She is a very, very good player,” Wiggins said of Walker. “We doubled her a lot tonight and she handled that pressure well. I think she scored 20 on just about everyone she played against this year, so we are very proud of our defensive effort tonight. She is a great player.”
“I’m used to being doubled,” said Walker. “I just kind of do what I do every night. My teammates definitely helped me out. I kicked out well and when they hit, they hit and when they don’t, I try and do my best to go after the offensive rebound.”
Cal guard Alexis Gray Lawson overcame a shaky start to pour in 14 points. But her defense of Bulldog leading score Jaleesa Ross was the key to keeping Fresno State’s outstanding perimeter game in check.
“I did not have a great shooting day,” Ross said during the post game presser. “My team did very well. [La]Shay [Fears] pushed the ball really well and got to the hole. It was not all about my shooting.”
As a whole, Cal did an excellent job of shutting down the Bulldogs’ 3-point shooting threats. In fact, the Bears attempted five more 3’s than Fresno State, hitting 5-of-23. The Bulldogs shot just 22% from beyond the arc.
“The game-plan was to take away the three more so than anything, and I think we did a really good job,” said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle.
Ross scored only eight points off 3-of-14 shooting. Ross was 0-for-4 in the first half and didn’t make her first shot (3-pointer) until the 9:19 mark of the second half. It came in the midst mini 12-6 Bulldog run, which shortly excited the pro-Fresno State crowd. Nonetheless, Cal would consistently clamp down and capitalize on the many easy shots the Bulldogs missed.
“They were giving us the layups so we just kept taking them,” said Ross. “We really weren’t looking for the three because they were giving us the layups. That is what we were trying to push.”
Fresno State players would often dribble in the lane and stop with their back to the basket. Walker, Devanei Hampton, and Rama N’diaye had no problem blocking or altering the Bulldogs’ desperation attempts in the lane.
N’diaye had a solid evening hitting 3-of-4 shots for six points in just nine minutes of play. She can only help the Bears, if they expect to win their first ever NCAA second round game against Virginia on Monday night. Due to Fresno State’s style of play, Hampton played only 18 minutes scoring two points. LaShay Fears led the Bulldogs with 18 points matching her career high.
Cal improves to 26-6. Fresno State ends its season 24-9.
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