New coach Horstmeyer starts 0-3 with Bears
First-year head coach Caren Horstmeyer’s career at Cal has gotten off to a rocky start. The Bears extended their losing streak to three to begin the season, falling to the Alabama Crimson Tide 76-63 in the opening round of the University of Illinois at Chicago Thanksgiving Tournament Friday night at UIC Pavilion.
The Tide were led by Shondra Johnson, who scored a game-high 29 points. She was helped by Sparkle Johnson’s 14 points and 10 rebounds, with Beth Vice scoring 13 and Joni Crenshaw 10. Alabama improved to 3-0 with the victory.
Alabama roared out of the gate to open a 16-5 lead just five minutes into the game, keyed by Vice’s two three-pointers. Cal responded with a 9-1 run of their own. But the Bears were held scoreless for seven minutes after that run, allowing the Tide to widen its lead back to 10 points, leading to a 32-21 halftime lead.
Horstmeyer’s squad came out strong in the second half, cutting the deficit to six in less than five minutes, but Alabama refused to let them back in the game.
“We need to be able to get over the hump and be more mentally tough,” Horstmeyer said.
The Tide increased its lead back up to its halftime lead of 11 the next two minutes and its biggest lead of the game of 15 at 57-42 with 7:43 on the clock. The Bears then cut the lead to seven points on several occasions, with the last being after a Brook Coulter three-pointer at 4:12 that made the score 59-52, but they could get no closer and went quietly into the Chicago night.
The Bears lost despite a career-high 27 points from guard Courtney Johnson, who also had two rebounds, two assists and four steals in the game. Her all-around effort portends good things for Cal; if Johnson can control the game from point guard, it will free up shooting guards Kenya Corley and Becky Staubes to snipe away from the outside.
But the Bears lack of an inside presence showed against the Crimson Tide, with Alabama out-rebounding the Bears 39-32 as Cal forwards Amber White and Ami Forney pulled down seven rebounds apiece.
The rough start doesn’t seem to worry Horstmeyer, however. She seems more intent on getting the team ready for the conference season.
“We’ve opened the season with three difficult games,” Horstmeyer said. We’re hoping the tough schedule will pay off comes the Pac-10 season.”
Cal faces the loser of the Illinois-Chicago vs. South Alabama game tomorrow at 1 p.m.