SAN JOSE, Calif. - Ninth-seeded California defeated eighth-seeded Arizona State, 46-38, Friday night in the opening round of the Pac-10 Tournament at the HP Pavilion.
"It was an exciting game," said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer, who recorded her 250th career win tonight, "and I've said all along that on any given night, the best defensive team is probably going to win the game. I thought tonight that was the Bears. Give a lot of credit to our players. They were mentally ready, physically ready, and they got into playing defense as hard as they could. They worked to take Arizona State out of what they wanted to do offensively, especially in the first half. A key was our coming out in the first five minutes of the second half. It was a big boost."
The Golden Bears improve to 10-19 (5-13 Pac-10) and advance to play No. 1 seed and No. 9-ranked Stanford (23-4, 15-3 Pac-10) Saturday at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the second-annual conference tournament. The Sun Devils, which won last year's tournament, fall to 15-13 (7-11).
With the victory, Cal claims the season series with ASU, 2-1, with each team previously winning on its home court.
Junior Nihan Anaz led Cal with 18 points, while junior Timea Ivanyi and sophomore Kristin Iwanaga held next-highest honors with seven apiece. Iwanaga hit one of Cal's two three pointers for the game. Carrie Buckner paced ASU with 14 points, followed by 11 from Jill Noe.
The Bears extended a 12-point halftime lead to a game-high 19 at 40-21 with 15:35 to play. Freshman Renee Wright received a down court baseball pass from Sarah Pool and converted the breakaway layup. Cal also held a 42-23 advantage following a basket from Anaz with 14:40 on the clock.
Cal's offense went cold for the remainder of the game, but its defense continued to be hot throughout the contest, holding the Sun Devils to an opponent season low of 22.6 percent. The Bears maintained a double-digit lead from 57 seconds left in the opening stanza to seven seconds left in the game. Cal, which entered the game as the Pac-10 leader for three-point field goal defense, held ASU to 0-of-8 from beyond the arc.
"We definitely came together as a team tonight," said Iwanaga, "and we played great team defense. That led to our offense."
Behind nine of Anaz's 11 first-half points and a stellar defensive effort, the Bears raced to a 23-10 lead with 5:51 remaining until halftime. The Sun Devils cut the lead to seven with six unanswered points from Buckner. A three-point shot from Cal's Sarah Pool capped the first-half scoring and sent the Bears into the locker room with a 30-18 edge.
The 38 points is the lowest Cal has allowed a Pac-10 opponent since the start of conference play in 1986-87. The previous low was 46 against UCLA in a 46-42 setback in last year's conference tournament. The 38 points from the Sun Devils and the 84 combined points tonight also is the lowest in tournament history.