Cal Sent Packing in Pac-10 Semis

Clarendon's Struggles And a Sluggish Team Start Doom Cal Against UCLA at Staples Center

Photo: Layshia Clarendon had a frustrating outing against UCLA, going 0-for-6 from the field and missing four 3-pointers. Her only scoring came on two free throws in the second half.
Eugene Lau/File
Layshia Clarendon had a frustrating outing against UCLA, going 0-for-6 from the field and missing four 3-pointers. Her only scoring came on two free throws in the second half.

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Throughout the No. 7 UCLA women's basketball team's nearly perfect campaign this season, junior forward Jasmine Dixon has been key. The All-Pac-10 selection averages 11.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and shoots 52.9 percent from the field.

Dixon's track record might lead one to assume that without her, the Bruins (17-4, 16-2 in the Pac-10) are not capable of the dominance they've displayed all year. Yet when Cal's defense held Dixon to just four points on Friday during the Pac-10 tournament semifinal, UCLA was still able to beat the Bears handily, 63-50.

"When you're playing teams twice, three times now, you have to know that they're coming with double-teams," Bruins coach Nikki Caldwell said of Dixon's game.

While Cal (17-15, 7-11) focused on keeping Dixon away from the net, UCLA utilized that same strategy against the Bears' point guard Layshia Clarendon, who averages 12.8 points per game but totaled 38 in the tournament's first two rounds.

Cal's success in cutting out a huge piece of the Bruins' offense was negated by UCLA's defense. Clarendon scored just two points, a pair of free throws in the second half, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"We were not poised, and we hid behind UCLA players," freshman guard Afure Jemerigbe said. "We forced Layshia to handle the ball the whole time. It's tough."

Though Clarendon was particularly affected, the Bears struggled to handle UCLA's high pressure defense on all ends. The Bruins forced 19 turnovers and made 14 steals. Cal looked frenzied trying to move the ball around UCLA's zone defense and into the key. Meanwhile the Bruins seemed calm and collected on offense, passing around the Bears and maintaining possession easily.

"We talked about the press break and breaking it with confidence," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "I think we struggled there. We struggled on the boards. We struggled to make layups. Our confidence was shaken."

It wasn't just Cal's inability to break past UCLA's top-ranked defense that broke its game, however. The Bruins hit the ground running offensively with an 11-1 run to start - and effectively end - the game.

The Bears didn't see a field goal until Jemerigbe hit a layup more than five minutes after tipoff. She had a season-high 17 points.

It didn't help the Bears that UCLA sophomore Atonye Nyingifa reached her season high with 17 points, on top of her nine rebounds.

The Bruins' well-rounded offense managed to pick up the slack in spite of Dixon's scoring drought. In addition to Nyingifa, Darxia Morris and Doreena Campbell also scored in double-digits with 14 and 12 points, respectively.

With wins over third seed Arizona State and seventh seed Washington in the past two days, Cal had made a comeback from the abysmal 2-7 run that was the second half of its conference campaign.

Yet the Bears' chances against a UCLA that was well-rested from its two byes in the tournament were still slim. Boyle said fatigue was not a factor for Cal, though.

"I didn't see my team tire," she said. "I can tell when my team's tired. It was how we started the game. We got punched in the head a little bit and we just deflated. We didn't respond to it."


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

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