March 7, 2009
Hampton scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Walker added 11 points Saturday, helping ninth-ranked Cal beat Arizona 51-48 and snap its two-game losing streak.
"That's what seniors do," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "They know what's on the line for them. When they need to, they buckle down. Dev had 10 boards tonight, 10 defensive boards. Every one of those boards we needed down the stretch."
Natasha Vital added 12 points for Bears (24-5, 15-3) in their Pac-10 regular-season finale. They earned the No. 2 seed in the upcoming conference tournament and beat Arizona for the seventh straight time.
Ify Ibekwe led Arizona (11-18, 4-14) with 21 points and 13 rebounds. She gave the Wildcats a scare when she hit the floor in pain, clutching her left knee with 15:05 left in the game. But Ibekwe, who missed two games last week with a knee injury, stayed in the game.
Hampton and Walker, playing in the final home game of their careers, helped Cal overcome a 23-20 halftime deficit and break out of its offensive slump.
The two combined for a 9-0 run helping Cal take its first lead of the game - 29-26 - on Hampton's three-point play. Walker's basket made it 35-26 with 10:15 left.
The Bears extended the lead to 44-30 on Walker's 3-pointer.
"I think we were excited and sad," said Walker, Cal's all-time leading rebounder, after her final home game. "We couldn't ask for a better family, better group of sisters. We kind of had to let that go and just play the game in the end and try to improve ourselves from the last couple of (games)."
Arizona went on its own 9-0 spurt to cut the deficit to 44-39 on Ibekwe's three-point play with 4:26 left.
Reiko Thomas' driving layin sliced the Bears' lead to 50-48 with 52 seconds left. But Alexis Gray-Lawson made one of two free throws and Walker partially blocked Thomas long range shot. Cal grabbed the rebound, sealing the win.
"It was a little emotional for everybody," said Hampton of senior day. Late in the game, Hampton said she told her teammates, " 'OK, here we go, we've got to snap out of it. Let's play our game because this is our floor, our gym and our last night.' As seniors, I know Ashley and I were not going to let ... the Bears come out with a loss."
Cal spent most of the season either alone in first place or tied for the Pac-10 lead. But the Bears lost on the road to UCLA last week then fell 63-41 to ASU at home on Thursday night, tying their season-low for scoring and falling into third place.
With Arizona State's loss at Stanford on Saturday, California finished in a tie with the Sun Devils for second place. The Bears' victory over Stanford gave the Bears the tiebreaker over ASU and the second seed.
"For us to come in and find a way to win says a lot about them heading into the tournament," Boyle said of her players. "You have to look at the big picture. This game allows us to breathe."
Walker, the Pac-10's leading scorer, is one of two players in Cal history to score over 2,000 career points. Hampton crossed the 1,500-point mark.
"You saw senior day, they certainly did not want to go out with a loss, and it showed," said Arizona coach Niya Butts of Walker and Hampton. "Thank God they're gone. They're obviously two really good players. ... Again, just happy that they're gone. Wish them well in the future."
Cal beat Arizona 56-46 in both team's Pac-10 season-opener, with Walker scoring 23 points, but the Wildcats played much better down the stretch. They nearly knocked off No. 2 Stanford on Thursday night, falling 70-67.
The Bears, as the No. 2 seed in the Pac-10 tournament, will have a bye on the first day of play. They will await the outcome of the Oregon/Washington game on Thursday, March 12 to see who they will play in their first game of the tournament. The Bears and their opponent will tip off in the second game on Friday, March 13 at 1:15 p.m. at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. If the Bears wins, they will advance to the semi-finals on Saturday, March 14 at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised on Fox Sports Net. Their semi-final match-up would be against the winner of Arizona State and USC.
All-Conference teams and Pac-10 Player of the Year awards will be announced on Wednesday night, March 11, just prior to the start of the tournament.