February 27, 1999
TEMPE, Ariz. - California has won three of its last four games after rallying from a 16-point deficit in the first half to defeat Arizona State, 67-63, Saturday night, at the Wells Fargo Arena.
The win lifted several demons off Cal's back.
The victory ended the Bears 27-game Pac-10 road-losing streak dating back to a 91-83 win at Washington State, Feb. 24, 1996. Cal and Arizona State now have identical 11-14, 5-11 Pac-10 records and are tied for sixth in the conference with two games remaining for both teams.
The win also ended a 20-game overall road-losing streak for Cal, who has dominated at home this season at the Kaiser Arena with a 9-3 mark.
Additionally, the Bears have swept the season series with Arizona State, marking the first time they swept a conference foe since defeating ASU twice during the 1995-96 season.
"This was the third time in the last four games that we have come from behind to win," said Cal head coach Marianne Stanley. "We came up with some big plays when we needed them.
"The media has been hammering us (over the long losing streak). The monkey on our back was becoming a gorilla."
Cal gradually withered away at ASU's 29-22 halftime lead right out of the second half gate on the shoulders of Jennie Leander, Courtney Johnson and Lauren Ashbaugh, who all finished in double-figure scoring. With 11:49 remaining in the game, Johnson converted on her second three-pointer of the night, giving Cal the lead at 37-36, its first lead since an 8-7 advantage. Eight lead changes and six ties would follow during the rest of the game.
Sun Devil freshman Theresa Jantzen, who led all scorers with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the game, played like a senior, tallying 14 points in the second half, including 12 consecutive at one point.
The game was a sea-saw affair over the final 12 minutes with neither team leading by more than four points. The turning point for Cal came with about two minutes to go and the Bears up 60-58. ASU sharp-shooter Natalie Tucker elevated for a three-point attempt at the top of the arc, but Johnson, 5-8, stuffed Tucker for only her second blocked shot of the year. Shavaki Jackson scored on a lay-up at the other end to give Cal a four-point cushion at 62-58.
Jackson would come up big defensively moments later with Cal up 63-58. Leaf Newman missed both free throw attempts for ASU with 46 ticks on the clock but ASU corralled the rebound. Leander proceeded to commit a foul to send Natalie Tucker, 79 percent free throw shooter, to the line to shoot two free throws. Tucker missed them both, but this time Jackson grabbed the board to force ASU to foul during the final 30 seconds. Cal held a 41-30 rebounding edge for the game and improved its shooting percentage to 42 percent after its dreadful start.
Sherrise Smith and Paige Bowie each knocked down two free throws to seal the elusive road win.
"The road win feels great. Now the press can stop hounding us," said Bowie, who was 1-of-16 from the field but a clutch 6-of-6 from the foul line. "It was nice that we finally got a chance to ice a game at the free throw line."
With 7:12 remaining in the first half, Arizona State held a 26-10 lead and the Bears seemed destined to carry their road woes into next season. The Bears struggled offensively in the first half, shooting only 33 percent, but after going almost four minutes between their 10th and 12th points, their offense kicked into gear over the final six minutes.
"Courtney (Johnson) did a great job of keeping our heads up when we were down," said Ashbaugh.
Cal began to attack ASU's full court press and went on 12-3 run to enter the locker room down 29-22. Over the final six minutes of the half, Cal also forced ASU into six turnovers. Leander and Ashbaugh led Cal with six points each at the half and five and four rebounds, respectively. ASU's Leaf Newman led all players with seven points, but Jantzen was the player Cal had to worry about in the second half.
"We began to take better care of the ball against the press," said Stanley. "We were overly cautious at first."
Leander led Cal with a season-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, her second-consecutive double-double and sixth of the season. Johnson contributed 15 points, while Ashbaugh added 12 points and nine rebounds.
Cal wraps up the regular season against Oregon State Thursday and No. 18 Oregon Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bears are one win away from doubling their win total of each of the last two seasons.