California treats home crowd to opening NCAA Tournament win

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Reshanda Gray spent the closing minutes pounding her chest in celebration and running up and down the bench high-fiving as California’s supporting cast closed out an impressive NCAA Tournament opener at home in Haas Pavilion.

Gray, fellow senior Brittany Boyd, and the rest of the Golden Bears are hopeful this is just a start in another special run.

Gray had 22 points and nine rebounds as Wichita State tried every which way to defend her, and fourth-seeded California beat the 13th-seeded Shockers 78-66 on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Haas Pavilion.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year received a rousing standing ovation as she took a seat in the waning moments, and then pounded her chest in delight as the backups took over. Boyd followed her to the bench to roars 30 seconds later.

”We showed a ton of resolve,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said, ”Trying to be a little better at what we do than what they are at what they do.”

The Bears will face fifth-seeded Texas (23-10) on Sunday night for a spot in the Albany Regional after the Longhorns held off No. 12 seed Western Kentucky 66-64 in the first game.

Alex Harden scored 22 points and Michaela Dapprich had 16 for Wichita State (29-5), which had won 12 in a row.

The Shockers used a 9-0 run spanning 2 minutes, 44 seconds, to close to 47-43 on a 3-pointer by Dapprich with 12:54 left. But she picked up her fourth foul 30 seconds later.

Gottlieb used a timeout when Wichita State got close, and could tell all would be fine.

”They just have a swagger about them, `OK, we’ve got this,”’ she said.

Boyd’s two free throws with 11:48 remaining stopped a scoring drought of 4:11 for Cal. After a defensive stop, Gray delivered the next time down and the Bears found their groove again. Jefflo’s 3-pointer with 8:58 to go put Cal back up by 10 at 57-47.

As athletic as Wichita State is with that attacking defense that defines this group, the Shockers couldn’t stop Gray and Co. in the paint. Mikayla Cowling added 11 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Bears and Gabby Green had 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists, who had the backing of 2,079 in the home crowd while shooting 51.6 percent in the first half on their way to a 10-point lead at the break.

Boyd picked up her second foul at the 11:23 mark of the first half and sat for 3 minutes, 11 seconds before returning. She was whistled for her third with 15:16 to go.

With Wichita State allowing opponents only 51 points, good for fourth in the nation, Gottlieb prepared her team by using examples from Arizona State’s swarming defense. Taking care of the ball was the No. 1 priority.

The Shockers, champions of the Missouri Valley Conference, have never won an NCAA Tournament game in making appearances in three straight years.

Cal committed 15 turnovers but held a 38-27 rebounding advantage as the teams met for the first time.

HARDEN’S HURRAH

Gottlieb made a point to stop Harden and congratulate her on a spectacular career.

”I grabbed her at the end of the handshake line and said, `You could play anywhere,”’ Gottlieb said.

Harden shot 7 for 11 and added four steals in her final collegiate game.

Coach Jody Adams didn’t need to say much about what Harden meant to the program: ”The best.”

TIP-INS

Wichita State: The Shockers allowed their most points all season after coming in fourth-best in the country for scoring defense at 51 points. … Adams is 0-4 in the NCAA Tournament after also making one appearance guiding Murray State. … Wichita State didn’t substitute the entire first half, going to the bench for the first time with 16:57 remaining. … The Shockers were outrebounded for only the 12th time all season.

California: Gottlieb is 7-3 coaching Cal in the NCAA Tournament. … Boyd, still with a bruise under her right eye from an elbow during the Pac-12 Tournament, was briefly shaken by a hit to the face with 17:35 left. ”I’m built to run through a wall,” she said. … This marks the Bears’ first time playing an NCAA Tournament home game since the 1991-92 season.

UP NEXT

Wichita State’s season is over.

California faces Texas on Sunday night.