BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Golden State will be the first stop for the Lehigh women’s basketball team as the Mountain Hawks will travel across the country to take on the No. 13/15 California Golden Bears in the season opener Friday night for a 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) tip-off. Lehigh will begin its quest for the Patriot League crown in 2013 by playing its fourth ranked opponent over the past four seasons and will be searching for its first win over a Top 25 team in any of those match-ups.
Friday’s season opener will be senior co-captain Kelly Peterson’s homecoming, as the Concord, Calif. native and top returning scorer from the 2011-12 squad will be looking to make her mark in front of her hometown crowd. The Mountain Hawks will be looking to snap a two-game season-opener losing streak dating back to the 2010-11 season when Lehigh fell to Duquesne 70-65, before dropping to La Salle last season 63-43. Friday’s match up will be the fourth nationally-ranked opponent Lehigh will take on over the past four seasons. The three other times Lehigh has faced-off against a Top 25 team, the Mountain Hawks came up short, losing to No. 13/13 Rutgers last season, 68-40, after dropping to No. 20/22 Vanderbilt in the 2009-10 regular season, 90-54, and No. 16 Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament the same year, 79-42.
The Mountain Hawks will be taking on California for just the second time in program history. Lehigh squared off with the Golden Bears in November of 2003 when Cal knocked off the Mountain Hawks 66-47 in the opening round of the Coors Classic on the campus of the University of Colorado. After entering halftime down by nine, the Golden Bears outscored Lehigh 39-29 in the second half for the 16-point win. Lehigh is 0-2 all-time against Pac 12 opponents, the other tilt coming against Arizona in the 2005-06 season.
Cal went 25-10 last season, including posting a 13-3 mark inside Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears were the runner-up in the Pac 12 after losing in the championship game to Stanford by 15. Cal went on to receive an "at-large" bid to the NCAA Tournament where they advanced to the second round, only to be knocked off by the eventual national runner-up Notre Dame, 73-62. Cal returns its top-four leading scorers as the Golden Bears do not feature any freshman on their extremely experienced roster. Cal had the third-best scoring offense last season, averaging 70.0 points per game, as well as the best rebounding team after posting a +12.6 rebounding margin. The weakness of last year’s squad was its free throw shooting as the Golden Bears shot at a 61.2 percent clip from the charity stripe which ranked last in the Pac 12.
The top returning scorer for the Golden Bears is Layshia Clarendon as the senior averaged 12.8 points per game as a junior over her team-high 35 starts. Along with Clarendon, Cal will also feature two other top scorers in its line-up as sophomore Brittany Boyd and Gennifer Brandon put together prolific scoring years, averaging 10.2 and 8.9 points per game, respectively, a year ago. Brandon is also the leading returning rebounder for the Golden Bears, as she averaged 9.9 boards per game as a sophomore, including pulling down a team-best 12 in the NCAA Tournament game against Notre Dame.
Lehigh is coming off a 17-win season that ended with a 64-59 loss to Navy in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament. The Mountain Hawks will be looking to rebound from the disappointing end to last season as they begin their journey that will hopefully end with a Patriot League championship. Lehigh graduated its top two scorers from a season ago in Alexa Williams and Emily Gratch. The two combined to average 24.0 points last year as the features of Lehigh’s front court.
Senior co-captain Kelly Peterson is the Mountain Hawks’ leading returning scorer, as she averaged 9.5 points per game as a junior. Peterson played in 25 games for Lehigh last season, making 12 starts and led the team with 43 treys on the year, ranking her ninth in the Patriot League as she shot 32.6 percent from beyond the arc. She will team with senior Becky Guman and share the captaincy duties to help guide the Mountain Hawks back to the pinnacle of the Patriot League. Lehigh was the top-scoring team in the Patriot League last season, averaging 63.1 points per game, while it also led the league in free throw shooting as the Mountain Hawks posted a .726 clip from the charity stripe.
Lehigh will start the 2012-13 season with two road games before hosting La Salle in the home opener on November 20. The Mountain Hawks’ next opponent will be Saint Peter’s on Wednesday, November 14 as Lehigh will travel to Jersey City, N.J. to take on the Peacocks inside the Yanitelli Center for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
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