Cal Upsets Three Seed to Advance to Semis

Photo: Sophomore center Talia Caldwell led all players on Thursday afternoon with nine rebounds. Caldwell also scored nine points in the Bears' upset win over Arizona State.
Eugene Lau/Staff
Sophomore center Talia Caldwell led all players on Thursday afternoon with nine rebounds. Caldwell also scored nine points in the Bears' upset win over Arizona State.

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The great poet T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month. The Cal women's basketball would point to February to disprove that statement.

In that one month, the Bears went from NCAA tournament hopeful to the WNIT bubble.

On Feb. 5, Arizona State's Deja Mann hit a buzzer beater that derailed Cal's season. The Bears went on to lose their next five games, plummeting the Pac-10's third-place squad to the bottom of the conference's rankings.

On Thursday afternoon, Cal avenged that loss.

"It was just sweet revenge," point guard Layshia Clarendon said.

The sixth-seeded Bears defeated third-seeded Arizona State, 48-43, in the second round of the Pac-10 tournament at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.

"When we play ASU, it is always a battle, a war," Clarendon said. "It is always going to come down to the wire. It is never going to be a blowout."

There was no last-second shot this time, but there were clutch shots. After a neck-and-neck game in which the largest lead was only eight points, the Bears (17-14, 7-11 in the Pac-10) were up by one with under a minute to go. The Sun Devils (20-10, 11-7) fouled Clarendon, a 67.7 percent free throw shooter. She calmly nailed them both, and made two more on the next possession.

"Layshia was playing great all night, so when she walked up there, I thought she was knocking them down," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "We haven't been a great free throw shooting team. That was a change in today's game, too."

Indeed the Bears have struggled from the charity stripe all season long. They shoot 61.9 percent as a team and were just 11-for-28 in Wednesday's first round matchup with Washington.

Clarendon followed up her double double (16 points, 10 rebounds) against the Huskies with an even more impressive performance against ASU. The sophomore played the entire contest and scored a game-high 22 points, nearly half of Cal's total. She also added five rebounds and three steals.

"Layshia has been playing here lately with a lot of confidence," Boyle said. "So with her stepping up, it gave us the ability to go into a press and slow it down a little bit."

The Bears came into the game averaging close to 14 3-point tries per game, but they took only one yesterday. As a result, they shot 40 percent from the field for the fist time in four weeks.

Sophomore post players DeNesha Stallworth and Talia Caldwell were a combined 7-of-11 and totaled 17 points and 15 rebounds. Freshman Afure Jemerigbe came off the bench to score eight points in 33 minutes.

When the Bears needed points, though, they gave the ball to Clarendon.

"I just put the ball in Layshia's hand, and she gets to call what she needs to call," Boyle said. "Anytime something breaks down it is just her getting to the rim and I thought she did a great job, not only of getting to the rim, but she hit her pull up tonight, which was really nice.

"She just did a really good job of executing the offense."

Cal will need Clarendon to continue her hot streak. The Bears face second-seeded UCLA, the No. 7 team in the country, in the semifinals today at 12:30 p.m. down the street at Staples Center. The Bruins swept their season series with the Bears.


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

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