March 4, 2007
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Twenty-fourth ranked California gave seventh-ranked Arizona State a battle but lost to the Sun Devils, 60-53, on Sunday in the semifinal round of the Pac-10 Tournament at HP Pavilion. The Golden Bears fell to 23-8 with the loss in their first appearance in the semifinals of the conference tournament, while the Sun Devils improved to 28-3 and will face the winner of the Stanford-USC game in the finals Monday night.
Cal sophomore center Devanei Hampton, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds but fouled out with 2:03 remaining in the game and the Bears down only 54-51. Hampton has led Cal in scoring in 10 of the last 11 games after notching her 11th game this season with at least 20 points.
Sophomore forward Ashley Walker scored 13 and corralled seven boards for the Bears, who equaled the 1983-84 Cal team for the program's best record through 31 contests.
The game was close most of the way, with the Sun Devils leading the Bears by seven or less much of the second half. Cal last led at 35-34 on a driving layup by point guard Natasha Vital with 13:56 remaining. The freshman played all 40 minutes this afternoon, just as she did in yesterday's 63-51 quarterfinal win over Oregon in the quarterfinals.
Cal fell behind 14-4 with 12:32 to play in the first half and committed eight turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game against Arizona State's pressure defense. The Bears cut down on their turnover rate but still finished with 22 for the game. Cal also rattled ASU with its zone press, forcing the Sun Devils into 17 turnovers.
After the Sun Devils led by 10 points, the Bears responded with an 8-0 run, capped by four of junior forward Krista Foster's eight points off the bench, to close the gap to 14-12 with 9:37 left until halftime. Jill Noe hit a three-pointer at the top of the arc to put the Sun Devils back up 19-14.
Keanna Levy stole the ball from Briann January and converted the layup at the other end of the court to tie the game at 21-21 with 4:11 on the clock. Hampton then tallied four straight points to extend Cal's run to 8-0, giving the Bears their biggest lead of the game at 25-21 at the 2:34 mark.
The Sun Devils ended the half on a 5-0 spurt to secure a 26-25 halftime edge. Hampton led Cal with 13 first-half points, and Foster sparked the Bears with six-points off the bench.
ASU led by no more than three points to start the second half, including at 34-31 with 16:01 to play in the game. Walker, who posted 11 of her points in the second half, helped Cal earn its last lead of the game by posting four straight points before Vital's go-ahead layup.
After Hampton fouled out on an offensive foul with the Bears down only 54-51, ASU secured two offensive rebounds that finally allowed Kirsten Thomson to score a layup to give the Sun Devils a 56-51 lead with 1:18 remaining in the contest. Walker sank two free throws to bring the Bears back to within three points at 1:01 on the clock, and the Bears forced January into her team-high fifth turnover on ASU's next possession.
Cal had an opportunity to get within one, but the Bears missed two layups with under 30 seconds to play. January and Aubree Johnson capped the scoring for the Sun Devils with two free throws apiece. The Sun Devils made all six of their free throws in the second half.
Cal shot 45.7 percent from the field and held Arizona State to 41.9 percent.
Thomspon led the Sun Devils with 14 points off the bench, and Emily Westerberg - the team's leading scorer entering the game at 13.8 ppg -- added 12 points but fouled out with 2:34 remaining.
The Bears will likely earn their second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid when the 64-team field is announced Monday, March 12.