WACO, Texas (AP) Brittany Boyd has already played in an unexpected NCAA Final Four for California.
The do-everything guard made sure the Golden Bears got off to a winning start in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Boyd scored 16 of her 22 points after halftime, including the game-winning basket with 14 seconds left, and California survived for a 64-63 first-round victory over feisty Fordham on Saturday after Erin Rooney’s final shot for the Rams came up short.
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”The little runner at the end, that’s something we practice. It wasn’t something that we made up,” said Boyd, who also had 10 assists and six rebounds. ”They ran a ball screen for me. I seen I had the runner, so I shot it. Fortunately, it went in off the glass. I didn’t call glass. It went in and we had to lock down for that next 14 seconds.”
There were eight ties and nine lead changes in the second half, with the lead going back-and-forth three times in the final 31 seconds in a game with so much focus on two of the most versatile guards in the nation.
Afure Jemerigbe was fouled on a drive for Cal (22-9) with 31 seconds left, and made both free throws for a 62-61 lead for the No. 7 seed in the Notre Dame Regional.
Jemerigbe, along with Boyd a returning starter from Cal’s national semifinal loss to Louisville last April, added 13 points. Reshanda Gray had 10 points and eight rebounds.
After Rooney drove for a layup against Boyd with 19 seconds left, Boyd responded with her go-ahead basket at the other end. The Rams called timeout to set up a final play for Rooney, who took the inbound pass from the left sideline with 10.8 seconds left, and dribbled across to the other side before her final shot.
Cal was prepared for that distinct possibility.
”We decided to switch everything, so we had (Reshanda) switch onto one of their best players. She locked her down and forced a really far shot,” Jemerigbe said.
”The one thing we’re most confident with is the switch-all at the end. We’ve done it a couple of other times,” Golden Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. ”You always want to do what your players are most confident with. They were very confident down the stretch and made some big plays.
Gottlieb, whose 79 wins in her first three seasons are the most by any Cal coach in a three-year span, grew up 25 miles north of Fordham. She watched the Rams play and even went to camps on the Bronx campus as a kid. Any other time, she would have been pulling for the Rams.
Rooney finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for No. 10 seed Fordham (25-8), the Atlantic 10 tournament champ playing in its first NCAA tourney in 20 years. The Rams are only six years removed from an 0-29 season but now have consecutive 25-win seasons under coach third-year coach Stephanie Gaitley.
Boyd and Rooney among the three players in the country who entered the NCAA tournament averaging 14 points, six rebounds and five assists a game. And they were constantly around each other on the Ferrell Center court.
”I think she’s a great player. I thought the before the game that it was going to be fun. It was a challenge for me,” Rooney said. ”I think she’s more of a defensive player than I am. I kind of took that to heart. She still got her points, but it was just fun playing against her. ”
The Golden Bears advanced to play Monday night against Baylor.
Cal, which trailed by as many as seven points before halftime, got even at 39 about 3 minutes into the second half when Boyd stole the ball from Rooney.
Boyd, who was only one of eight shooting before halftime, drove for a layup and was fouled by Rooney, whose left foot slipped awkwardly while trying to make a defensive stop. Rooney left the game only momentarily and Boyd made the free throw to make it 39-all.
After the Golden Bears came up on empty on a possession when they had six shots with about 6 minutes left, Rooney made a 3-pointer over Boyd to put the Rams up 54-52. The game was quickly tied when Jemerigbe had a putback on Boyd’s missed 3-pointer.