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WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Cal women to play Fresno State in NCAA's first round

In the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament, the Bears have landed in a comfort zone at the Galen Center, which has been their home away from home recently.

March 21, 2009|Robyn Norwood

This place again?

The California women's basketball team returned to the Galen Center on Friday, not quite a week after a controversial last-second loss to USC in a semifinal of the Pacific 10 Conference tournament.

"We were joking when we walked into the building like, 'Ha, this looks familiar,' " said Ashley Walker, the Golden Bears' 6-foot-1 senior forward.

A week ago tonight, Cal fell to USC, 69-67, when an apparent basket by Walker on a play that began with 0.03 of a second remaining was disallowed. Officials ruled that there was only time for a tipped shot and Walker had "gathered" the ball before releasing it.

But the arena that was the site of the Golden Bears' frustration could be a source of comfort when they open the NCAA tournament today against Fresno State.

Cal, seeded fourth in the Trenton (N.J.) Regional, will be playing its fourth game in the Galen Center in little more than three weeks, starting with a Feb. 27 victory over USC.

"We're here, we've been practicing on this floor, we're used to the rims, there's a comfort zone for us," Cal Coach Joanne Boyle said.

The 13th-seeded Bulldogs will be at a size disadvantage.

"They're very big and love the high-low game and to get the ball inside," Fresno State Coach Adrian Wiggins said. "At the same time, we have spent a lot of time on defense, so maybe we can do some things to keep them off rhythm."

Cal wants to get its rhythm back after the overtime that never was.

"An hour, an hour and a half after the game, you could just see it in our players' eyes, like they wanted to play another game, right then, right there," Boyle said. "That five minutes of overtime, let's take that and play it against Fresno, and just make a statement."

robynnorwood@verizon.net

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Today's games

AT GALEN CENTER

Fresno State (24-8) vs. California (25-6), 5 p.m., ESPN2: Fresno, seeded 13th in the Trenton (N.J.) Regional, is known for its three-point shooting and has made as many as 16 in a game this season. Jaleesa Ross, a 5-foot-8 guard, averages 13.8 points and shoots 41.3% from long range. Cal, seeded fourth and ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press poll, is led by Ashley Walker, a 6-foot-1 forward who averages 19.3 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Marist (29-3) vs. Virginia (23-9), 7:30 p.m., ESPN2: Virginia, seeded fifth in the Trenton Regional, has lost two of its last three games. The Cavaliers are led by players with 20.5-point averages, 5-11 guard Monica Wright and 6-1 forward Lyndra Littles. Marist has a disadvantage in size and athleticism in this matchup, but the school is playing in its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament and reached the Sweet 16 in 2007. The Red Foxes are led by Rachele Fitz, a 6-0 forward who averages 20.6 points and 9.3 rebounds.

-- Robyn Norwood

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