Pretty much as expected, Cal 47, No.1 UConn 80

Breanna Stewart played at a higher level than the rest of the players on the court today. - Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Bears traveled across the country to play at the famed Madison Square Garden against the top ranked and defending champ UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic. After a competitive first 10 minutes where Bears frustratingly can't make enough baskets, UConn routed the Bears the rest of the way.

New York City, New York - Just like everyone pretty much expected, this one was almost all UConn. Both teams actually started somewhat sluggishly, with the Bears looking much better but not making nearly enough buckets (particularly at the short range). Brittany Boyd could slash her way to the basket but just couldn't get the ball to drop. Then, UConn's Breanna Stewart took over the game. Nearly outscoring the Bears singlehandedly by herself until she left the game for good (actually, when she left it was Cal 30, Stewart 29) on her way to a season high 29.

UConn forward Stewart was definitely the star of the game. Coach Gottlieb said that she thinks Stewart is easily the top choice in the WNBA draft whenever she leaves. Stewart was able to contribute in many way and finished with 29 points on 12 for 18 shooting. She made the first UConn basket which was a 3 and had a double-double with 10 boards  to go with 2 assists, 1 blocks and 2 steals. Stewart did say that Cal "are a tough team" but also credited their fans to make MSG a de-facto home game for them.

Other than Stewart, the Bears held UConn in check. Rashanda Gray quickly drew two fouls on UConn starter Stefanie Dolson. Gray also gave the Bears a brief 2-0 lead.

Cal started Belgium freshman Hind Ben Abdelkader who scored a team high 9 points (tied with Boyd). The glaring problem for the Bears, however, was again shooting. Hind's 4 for 10 is actually much better than the team's 29.9% shooting for the game which was merely 23.5% (8 for 34) in the first half.

Even though UConn pulled away in the second half of the first half to go up 40-20 at half time, the Bears still got many positives from the game.

The bright spot for the Bears was the emergences of some new post players (to complement Rashanda Gray). Transfer Kyra Dunn played her very first game in the Cal uniform today. She immediately made her presence felt (although did pick up a foul) and proceed to shoot 2 for 2 with 3 boards and 2 blocks in 17 minutes. Justine Hartman, who missed some games earlier this season, also had a nice game. Hartman scored 6 points (on 3 of 7 shooting) to go with 4 boards and a block. As a team, the Bears had a season high 6 blocks against a large and skilled UConn team.

On how she feels about her team after this game, Coach Gottlieb said, "We have a team that is capable, play hard. You see first hand what the best is like and we want to be like them."

Nevertheless, this was a fun trip for the team (and for me to see them again this season). Boyd called the trip "amazing". They went to the Radio City Christmas show and even ran into 50 cent on the street!

More importantly, Cal is getting more exposure in the East Coast and being on ESPN proper (rather than ESPN2 or ESPNU). Coach Gottlieb thinks the exposure from the Final Four run and playing in a premier college women's basketball event like the Maggie Dixon Classic will manifest in the future.

For those interested, here is the majority of the press conference video. I shot with a relatively crappy resolution (and the shakiness...not meant for stylish points).


Oh, they did have professional transcriber working here for the presser. Someone just handed me the quotes. There are some good stuff, but I'm going to save that for later.

I'm going to go enjoy my last few hours of time in NYC (I am claiming that it is by design and post-modern journalistic artistry that I started this article with a location very professionally and ended with a personal note). Check back for a photo essay of this game next week.

GO BEARS!

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