Cal Irreparably Damages Pac-10 Hopes With Two Losses in L.A.

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Going into this weekend, the Cal women's basketball team's remaining Pac-10 games looked fairly predictable.

Its Friday night loss to No. 11 UCLA was anything but unexpected, and the Bears' middle-of-the-pack conference position relative to their three remaining opponents - No. 2 Stanford and the lowly Oregon schools - is indicative of the likely outcome of those contests.

The only questionable game remaining was Sunday's matchup with USC, whom Cal beat convincingly on Jan. 20.

Yet the outcome of Sunday's game, and likely Cal's season, was obvious within 10 minutes of the 80-67 loss at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The early minutes of the game saw the Bears take a 4-3 lead. The next four consisted of a 14-0 run from the Trojans.

USC led by 21 points with 12 seconds to go in the half, and it was only the Bears' four free throws in the time remaining that pulled them to 50-33.

Trojans' guard Ashley Corral was responsible for 18 points in the first half. While she hit a career-high 7-for-8 3-pointers, Cal (14-12, 6-9 in the Pac-10) suffered an abysmal 33.3 percent shooting effort.

"Last time, they had an amazing night, shooting like 52 percent from the field," USC senior Kari LaPlante said. "That's hard to copy, so we knew that tonight on our home court floor that it was going to be a different game."

When Cal defeated the Trojans (16-9, 8-6) at Haas Pavilion on Jan. 20, the Bears held Corral, who averages 12.6 points per game, to just three points. Her offensive presence is just one indicator of Cal's difficulties at Galen Center on Sunday.

"Where is our maturity and understanding that you have to dictate?" coach Joanne Boyle asked. "Ashley Corral made seven from the three. You have to dictate. We know that.

"How much more aggressive were we in the second half running the same stuff?"

According to Boyle, the second half was something of a comeback. Freshman Lindsey Sherbert helped the Bears come back hitting three 3-pointers in the second half to lead the Bears with 19 points. Yet it was Cal's defensive efforts that allowed the Bears to shave four points off USC's halftime lead.

Cal upped its rebounding from 16 to 24 in the second half, allowing only five USC offensive rebounds throughout the entire game. Corral scored only eight after the break, finishing with 26 points.

The Bears outscored USC, 34-30, in the second half, not allowing the Trojans' lead to reach 20 points again, as it did multiple times in the first period.

"We need to find a way to put it all together in one game," Boyle said. "I liked what I saw in the second half. I know we are freshmen and sophomores. I think we are better than what we are showing."

Unfortunately for the squad, a late-game effort does nothing to fix a 17-point deficit - the same way a potential sweep of the Oregon teams next week won't fix their conference record.


Alex Matthews covers women's basketball. Contact her at [email protected]

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