Penny Toler of Cal State Long Beach took women's basketball to a dazzling level Thursday night as she scored a career-high 41 points in leading the 49ers past UCLA, 103-57.
The performance of Toler and the other 49ers in their season opener was the kind Long Beach Coach Joan Bonvicini said she had never envisioned as a young girl. At that time, women's basketball had barely begun to emerge from a slow game of giggles and awkward push shots.
It's come a long way, if Toler's performance before a crowd of 2,105 at the 49er gym is any indication.
Included in Toler's repertoire against the Bruins were stutter steps, fancy dribbling, pull-up jumpers, no-look passes, textbook passes, 360-degree spins and gliding, one-handed shots.
The 5-foot 8-inch junior guard made 19 of 29 field-goal attempts and had 5 steals and 7 assists.
She is the perfect player for Bonvicini's fast-paced, aggressive style of play.
UCLA, which dropped to 2-2, was in the game only momentarily. The Bruins led, 7-6. Less than seven minutes later, they trailed, 30-9.
The tear started with a jumper by Toler. Then Cheryl Dowell made two quick baskets and Toler followed with a fast-break layup.
The 49ers' press and half-court trap rattled UCLA so much that the Bruins were outscored, 14-0, during a five-minute span.
"We wanted to put pressure on them immediately," Bonvicini said.
UCLA made 22 turnovers in the first half. After most of them, Toler and backcourt mate Dana Wilkerson went sprinting toward the basket where layups resulted.
"I tell our team that no one will be in better condition than us," Bonvicini said.
Dowell and Carol Brandt each scored 12 points off the bench for the 49ers and Angelique Lee, a 6-4 center, had nine rebounds.
Dora Dome led UCLA with 19 points.
Toler, who honed her game playing against men on the playgrounds of Washington, D.C, put on moves worthy of her idol, Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons, en route to 24 first-half points.
"She just doesn't play, she knows the game," said 49er assistant coach Glenn McDonald.
McDonald, a former Boston Celtic, offered a man's perspective on the women's game.
"It's had an amazing advancement," he said. "This is the biggest surprise in the world to me. There are some girls out here today that are better than men."
Toler seemed to be one of those girls Thursday night, but she wasn't particularly ecstatic after the game.
"I missed eight (actually 10) shots," she said. "I thought that was too many."
The victory was the 12th in a row for the fourth-ranked 49ers over UCLA and the 27th straight in their gym.