CHICAGO – California defeated South Alabama, 70-59, for the first victory of the Caren Horstmeyer era Saturday at UIC Pavilion. The Bears are 1-3 on the year, while the Jaguars fall to 2-2 with the loss to the Bears in the consolation game of the UIC Thanksgiving Tournament.
Senior guard Kenya Corley rebounded from a scoreless game against Alabama Friday to lead the Golden Bears with a career-high of 22 points. Corley ignited Cal’s transition game, which accounted for 10 points. Senior forward Lauren Ashbaugh added 15 points and eight rebounds for Cal, which held a 42-34 edge on the glass. Jessica Webb led South Alabama with 22 points, and Taneshia Russell added 13.
“I love to see different players step up,” said Horstmeyer. “This afternoon Kenya Corley stepped up and made a huge difference for our team. She played with confidence. She played the way I know she’s capable of every game.
“I think Lauren Ashbaugh was also a key. I say that because whenever she went in, we went on a run. She was tough. She wanted to win the game. I really feel as a team it was important that we got a win under our belts.”
The Bears jumped out to a 12-5 lead behind six points from Corley with 11:46 until halftime. The Bears offense then briefly slowed as the Jaguars closed to within 13-12 and 15-14 with seven minutes on the clock behind seven points from Webb. Cal countered with an 8-0 run to mount its biggest lead of the game to that point at 23-14 with 3:01 to go. Corley nailed a three-pointer as time expired to give Cal a 27-21 halftime advantage.
Cal utilized a 51.7 percent shooting effort in the second half to pull away from South Alabama. Ashbaugh scored 11 of her points after the break. The Bears extended its lead to double figures for the first time in the game at 46-36 following two free throws from Corley with 10:02 to play.
Cal built a 15-point margin at 62-47 with 5:02 left when South Alabama mounted a final charge, cutting the Bears lead to seven with only 35 ticks on the clock following a three-pointer from Russell. Courtney Johnson helped the Bears seal the game with two free throws, and Corley put an exclamation point on her team’s first victory of the 2000-01 season with a layup with one second left.
Behind eight-of-15 shooting from Corley, Cal shot a season-best 46.4 percent overall from the field, and had its best defensive shooting percentage of the year at 33.9.
Cal’s Courtney Johnson was named to the six-person all-tournament team.
After four road games to open the season, Cal has its season opener Saturday, Dec. 2 against Cal State Northridge at 3 p.m., as host of the 23rd-annual Oakland Tribune Classic. The tournament, which also features Loyola Marymount and Florida International, wraps up, Dec. 3.