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Home court advantage pushes Cal women to upset win

By Ralph J. Gaston Daily Planet Correspondent
Monday February 12, 2001

The fans were loud and raucous. The band played with fervor. The atmosphere was electric. When Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer talked of building a home-court advantage, this must have been her vision.  

Horstmeyer’s Bears, led by the dynamic backcourt duo of Courtney Johnson and Kenya Corley, defeated the Oregon Ducks, 68-57, Saturday night at Haas Pavilion. The win moves the Bears into a fourth-place tie in the Pac-10, and marks the first time they have won four straight conference games since 1992. More importantly, the win snapped a 15-game losing streak to Oregon.  

After the final horn, the crowd of 1,271 ecstatic Cal fans celebrated, the Straw Hat band played, and forwards Ami Forney and Lauren Ashbaugh grabbed a giant blue Cal flag and planted it, symbolically, in the free throw lane on the south side of the court. Soaking in the joy, Horstmeyer even took the microphone to thank the fans for their support.  

“We want to pack Haas Pavilion,” said Horstmeyer after the game. “We’ve had good crowds, and we want to build on that.” 

Johnson led the Bears by filling the stat sheet in every important category. The senior from Antioch scored twenty points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out three assists, blocked two shots, and pilfered six steals while playing all 40 minutes of the contest. Nonetheless, she didn’t seem a bit tired after the game.  

“This victory means the world, said Johnson. “We’ve never beaten Oregon, never swept the Oregon schools.”  

Corley was held scoreless in the first half, but finished with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Another big key for the Bears was Forney, who racked up 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Forney only hit one shot from the floor but was 10 of 14 from the free throw line. 

Oregon, the two-time defending Pac-10 champion, was led by Angelina Wolvert’s 18 points, and forward Brianne Meharry, who contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds. However, Oregon got little offense from their guards, as the Bears held the Ducks’ backcourt to just 11 points on 3-of-26 shooting. Shooting guard Jaime Craighead, in particular, killed the Bears last month in Oregon, hitting five three-pointers, but was held to just 1-of-8 shooting on the night. “It was a very disappointing effort; we just couldn’t score again,” said Oregon head coach Jody Runge. “We got good efforts from Angelina and Brie (Meharry), but our outside scoring was nil.” 

Unlike last month’s encounter in Eugene, the Bears stayed with Oregon from the opening tip. The Bears were able to penetrate Oregon’s defense and used that ability, along with an up-tempo attack, to create lay-ups and free throw opportunities. Forward Genevieve Swedor was able to convert on feeds from Johnson and Amber White for easy layups, keeping the Bears close early.  

The Bears were also fortunate that Jenny Mowe, the Ducks’ star center, was hobbled by a muscle pull. Still, Wolvert scored eight first-half points in the low post, and the Ducks were able to able to use their size to lead them into halftime leading 29-22. 

The Ducks took a 38-27 lead with 15:48 to play in the game when Horstmeyer took a key timeout.  

“I told the team that all we had to do was stay close to them (Oregon),” said Horstmeyer. “If we stayed close, we would win the game.” The Bears turned up the defensive pressure, with a hand contesting every Oregon shot and deflecting seemingly every pass. Meanwhile, Corley started to heat up on offense, beating her defender off the dribble for easy layups seemingly at will. Finally, Johnson finished a 14-2 run with two free throws to put Cal in the lead, 48-47, with 7:07 to play. By that time, crowd, band, and team had all reached a fever pitch. The momentum, and the game, had shifted to Cal. 

Though the Bears were pleased with the victory, the hunger remains for more.  

“Right now, we’re waiting for Stanford,” said Corley. “We’re not satisfied until we get Stanford.”  

The Bears get their chance Friday night at Maples Pavilion, where Cal will try to eliminate another 15-game losing streak. Cal lost to their arch-rivals, 63-56, last month at Haas Pavilion.