March 14, 2009
LOS ANGELES - The California Golden Bears were upset in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament, falling the USC Trojans 69-67 Saturday night in Los Angeles.
The Bears (25-6, 15-3 Pac-10) got off to a slow start, missing their first four shots and turning the ball over five times in the first four minutes of the game, but trailed just 4-0 at the 16 minute mark of the first half. USC (17-14, 9-9 Pac-10), helped by the hot hands of their three-point shooters, extended the lead to 11, 29-18, with just under three minutes left in the first half. Senior center Devanei Hampton hit a jumper in the paint with 41 seconds left in the first half to give the Bears a seven-point deficit at the half.
The Trojans extended their lead back up to 13 points late in the second half when the Bears began their charge back into the game. The Bears, fueled by four baskets by Walker and a pair by Hampton, went on a 15-5 run to make it a two-point game, 67-69 with 15 seconds left in the game.
After a missed free throw by the Trojans, Hampton came up with the defensive rebound to give the Bears possession. Junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson was fouled bringing the ball up the court, putting her on the free throw line with a chance to tie the game for the Bears with seven seconds on the clock. Gray-Lawson missed both free throws with Briana Gilbreath of the Trojans coming up with the rebound.
Gilbreath was immediately fouled and headed to the other end to try to build the Trojan lead. She missed both of her free throws with Gray-Lawson pulling down the rebound. As the Bears were pushing the ball up the court, the ball got away from Gray-Lawson, going out of bounds after deflecting off a USC player with .3 seconds remaining in the game.
The Bears had a desperation inbounds, with junior guard Lauren Grief inbounding the ball to Walker, who tipped the ball into the net. The Bears, thinking they had tied the game and sent it into overtime, began celebrating when the officials began looking at replay to make a final decision about whether Walker's tip would count. The three game officials conferred for 11 minutes before finally negating the basket and giving the victory to the Trojans.
When asked about the deliberations of whether or not the basket counted, the officials explained that with only three-tenths of a second on the clock, there is only time to tip at the basket. It was determined that the ball was gathered and therefore the shot was no good. The review of the game footage by the officials was to make sure that the clock started on time. When they determined that was correct, they waved off the basket.
Pac-10 leading scorer Walker had 29 points and 15 rebounds, and Devanei Hampton added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the second-seeded Golden Bears.
This was the second time in the last three seasons the Bears bowed out of the tournament in the semi-finals. In 2007, the Bears' first-ever trip to the semis, they fell 60-53 to Arizona State. Last season, the Bears defeated Arizona State 65-61 in the semi-finals to advance to the championship game before falling to Stanford in the finals.
All three games between USC and Cal this season were decided by two points, with Cal winning the two regular-season meetings. The victory for the Trojans snaps a streak of eight straight victories for Cal in the matchup.
USC will vie for the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament when they take on Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament championship on Sunday.
The Bears head back to Berkeley where they will wait to find out who they will play in the NCAA Tournament. The selection show airs Monday, March 16 at 4 p.m. A live viewing party will take place in the Haas Club Room. The public is welcome to attend the viewing party.