Feb. 23, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. - California kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive with a 61-51 victory over Washington State Thursday night at Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears improved to 17-10 overall (9-8 Pac-10) with their third straight win over the Cougars, while WSU dropped to 8-18 (2-15).
"At this point, we're just happy to get a win," said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle, whose team continues to improve on its best season in 13 years. "I don't want to make excuses for my team. If we're tired, we're tired. They know the importance of the (final) games. They just have to play through it. I think we did in the second half. When they cut it to two (points), I think that's when we started playing our best basketball. I don't know why this team wants to face challenges like that when they don't have to be put in that situation."
Cal's four starting freshmen led the team in scoring, with forward/center Ashley Walker and guard Alexis Gray-Lawson holding top honors with 15 points each. Walker led the Bears with eight rebounds and two blocks. Center Devanei Hampton tallied 13 points, and guard Jene Morris added 11 points and a team-high five assists.
Walker scored 10 of her 12 first-half points to lift Cal to a 22-7 lead with 8:58 left in the first half. The Cougars responded with an 8-2 run to get as close as 24-15 with under four minutes until halftime. A long jumper from Kate Benz, who paced the Cougars with 15 points, cut Cal's lead to eight at 27-19 with 1:32 remaining in the half. Walker scored a layup with time expiring to send the Bears into the locker room up 29-19.
"(Assistant) Coach G (Gottlieb) told me to keep moving and cutting in the zone," said Walker. "I got a lot of good open looks. Devanei (Hampton) kept giving me good passes."
Washington State committed 17 of its 26 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
Cal's lead fluctuated between eight and 11 points until Morris stole the ball and converted a three-point play at the other end to give the Bears a 37-25 edge with 13:07 to go in the contest.
The Cougars went on a 14-2 run to tie the game at 39-39 with 9:27 on the clock. The spurt was keyed by two of Katie Appleton's three three-pointers. Cal reclaimed the lead for good when Devanei Hampton grabbed a rebound, dribbled the ball down court and found Morris for a fast-break layup.
Benz converted her only three-pointer to cut Cal's lead to 45-44 at 5:24, but the Bears sealed the victory with a 12-2 run, which was capped by another steal and layup by Morris.
Cal shot only 34.0 percent but helped its cause by sinking 26-of-39 free throws (66.7 percent). WSU hit 35.6 percent of its chances from the floor.
Keisha Moore contributed 14 points for Washington State. Benz added 11 rebounds for the only double-double of the night.
Cal hosts Washington in its final regular season home game Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. on Fox Sports Net. Senior Renee Wright will be honored before the game.
"I hope that these kids can regroup," said Boyle. "It will be our last home game. It's Senior Night. They have a lot to play for. They know it. They have to visualize the next game, and say, every single thing that I can do - bumping a cutter, hitting a free throw, getting a rebound. Whatever it is, you have to visualize it for the next two days."