UCLA Makes Free Throws Late to Halt Cal Rally

Photo: Eliza Pierre scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting in Cal's loss to UCLA on Saturday. The sophomore guard, who leads the Pac-10 in steals, had two thefts on the afternoon.
Allyse Bacharach/Photo
Eliza Pierre scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting in Cal's loss to UCLA on Saturday. The sophomore guard, who leads the Pac-10 in steals, had two thefts on the afternoon.

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Women's Basketball Press Conference: Cal vs. UCLA

Cal and UCLA women's basketball speak at a press conference.

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Going into Saturday's tilt against defensive-minded UCLA, the Cal women's basketball team probably figured turnovers would be key against the press. It turns out free throws made the difference.

Bruins' sophomore forward Atonye Nyingifa cooly made all four of her free throws to ice No. 8 UCLA's 65-56 victory over the Bears at Haas Pavilion.

Cal had just rallied to cut the deficit to four points, but five missed free throws by the Bears (11-7, 3-4 in the Pac-10) in the last 5:17 of the game crushed their hope of a comeback.

"(I am) proud of my team for how they came out and fought and competed against a top-10 team," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "I think they understand they can play in scenarios like that. When you play that hard and that competitive, you can beat a lot of teams.

"When you get to a top-10 team, it comes down to details. I think down the stretch our details caused us some issues."

With six minutes to go, senior guard Rachelle Federico faked a 3-pointer and took a step in for an easy jumper that narrowed the score to 53-47. Back-to-back baskets by the Bruins - and four missed free throws by the Bears - pushed the lead back up to 10, and it looked like that might seal the victory for UCLA (16-2, 6-1).

Yet Cal had one run left.

Power forward DeNesha Stallworth, who paced the squad with an efficient 22 points (on 9-of-14 shooting) and eight boards, started off a 6-0 run with a basket. On the next possession, Federico made a lay-up when center Talia Caldwell found her cutting to the hoop. After the Bruins' Darxia Morris missed the front end of the one-and-one, Pierre drove to the basket, made the shot and drew the foul.

With 57 seconds remaining, Cal had UCLA on the ropes.

But Pierre missed the free throw and the subsequent turnover and missed 3-pointers by the Bears did nothing to offset the brilliance of Nyingifa - who entered the game a 58.5 percent free throw shooter on the season -from the charity stripe.

"In the second half, we realized we wanted it and that we could keep up with this team and possibly beat this team" Stallworth said. "So I think we woke up and started playing hard and good things happened, but it just didn't fall in our hands."

The Richmond, Calif., native said she thought the team was nervous in the first half, not surprising considering Cal committed 10 turnovers before the break. The Bruins' press bothered the Bears, but it was the unforced errors and miscues - particularly errant passes and an inability to stop UCLA in transition - that led to the Bruins' 32-23 halftime lead. UCLA's 55.6 percent field goal shooting also contributed to the outcome after 20 minutes.

"Wish we would have gotten off to a better start," Boyle said. "In the first half we were so tentative. We were running some stuff and everybody was looking for more of the play ... You got to just move against a team like that because they change up their defense"

Morris had 22 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Bruins, answering Cal runs with deadly accuracy from the 3-point line.

Meanwhile, two days after shooting 50 percent (9-of-18) from 3-point range in their win over USC, the Bears were only 1-of-9. Boyle played freshman Lindsay Sherbert, the team's 3-point leader, just three minutes in the second half, citing her lack of rebounding.


Jonathan Kuperberg covers women's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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