March 29, 2009
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -The California Golden Bears season came to an end Sunday with a 77-53 loss to the No. 1 Connecticut Huskies in the third round game of the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Bears jumped out to a hot start. Senior Ashley Walker started the game hitting six of her first eight shots, helping to propel the Bears to an eight point lead, 31-23, with 6:23 remaining in the first half.
Connecticut closed out the half on a 12-2 run to take a 35-33 lead at the break. It was the second closest halftime game of the season for the 36-0 Uconn Huskies.
Connecticut outscored Cal 42-20 in the second half to earn the 77-53 victory and to advance to the Elite 8.
Walker scored 21 to lead California, which was making its first trip to the regionals in program history after blowing out Fresno State and Virginia in the first two rounds.
Connecticut had dismantled opponents this season, including beating seven ranked teams by an average of 31 points, with Cal beating the average.
California jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first few minutes. It marked the first time UConn had trailed in a game since an early deficit against Seton Hall on Feb. 28.
It didn't get much better for the Huskies, who fell behind 31-23 on Walker's 3-pointer with 6:38 remaining before the break, forcing Auriemma to call time-out and silencing the mostly pro-Huskies crowd.
That's when UConn turned up its defense and its highly potent offense. Connecticut continued its burst to start the second half expanding the lead to 47-37 on Montgomery's three-point play 3 minutes in.
"With their 12-2 run I could see our team a little anxious going into the locker room," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "When we didn't get the first four or five stops they started questioning themselves, and it started to snowball."
Gray-Lawson connected on a 3 on the other end to cut the deficit to seven before UConn put the game away scoring 13 of the next 16 points to make it 63-43 on Kalana Greene's layup with 9:13 left.
By the time Walker hit a jumper with just over 6 minutes left to end the drought the game was in hand.
Cal would get no closer than 16 the rest of the way.
Despite the loss, the Bears were happy to have established themselves as a national power.
"We left a legacy behind us so that the class coming in and can really put Cal on the map the next couple of years," Walker said.