UCLA 70 - Cal 58
SEATTLE – Any coach can tell you how hard it is to beat a team three times in a season. Lindsay Gottlieb’s Golden Bears got a harsh reminder Saturday night at KeyArena as UCLA sailed past them 70-58 to advance to the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game.
Third-seeded UCLA, who was swept by Cal during conference play, never trailed in the game as it shot a jaw-dropping 49 percent on the night. Markel Walker (23), Jasmine Dixon (15), Alyssia Brewer (14) and Atonye Ngyingifa (12) all scored in double digits. Dixon also added 12 rebounds to achieve a double-double.
UCLA coach Cori Close was understandably pleased with her team's effort against a "formidable" opponent.
"This win means a lot to us because they are such a formidable opponent, and we've respected them all year," Close said. "They really handed it to us down at our place, and they just are a really good basketball team that has represented our conference extremely well all year long. And we will support and root them on through a big NCAA tournament run."
UCLA shot 56 percent (15-27) in the first half. Second-seeded Cal, on the other hand, played frantically and made just five of 25 first-half attempts. The Bears missed all 11 three-point attempts. UCLA went into intermission with the 35-14 advantage.
It was more of the same in the second half: UCLA’s shots kept falling, and Cal’s didn’t.
The Bears put together a 9-0 run midway through the second period, but still trailed by 16. They wouldn’t get any closer than 12 for the remainder of the game as UCLA held Cal, the Pac-12’s second-best shooting team, to 30 percent on the night - far below its .427 season average.
"I credit UCLA," Gottlieb said. "They're a terrific team. They're in the top 15 for a reason, and I thought they brought all their strengths to forefront tonight."
"I thought we did a lot of things better in the second half. But the hole was just a little bit too deep, especially against a team as good as UCLA."
Brittany Boyd led Cal in scoring with 18 points, followed by Layshia Clarendon (14 points, seven rebounds) and Talia Caldwell (10 points, seven rebounds).
Cal’s loss snaps its 16-game win streak, a program record for consecutive wins against a conference opponent. The Golden Bears will learn of their NCAA tournament selection a week from Monday.
Cal guard Layshia Clarendon called the loss a "wake-up call" ahead of then.
"This doesn't ruin our season in any way at all," she said. "We talked about it being more of a wake‑up call. If anything, it will make us more hungry for [the NCAA] tournament."
UCLA meanwhile takes on the winner of the second semifinal matchup between Stanford (1) and Colorado (4) in Sunday’s championship game at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN2.
"Whoever we're going to face, we're going to face a team of great depth," Close said as the second semifinal unfolded. "It's going to come down to mental focus, togetherness, toughness. It's all those intangible things. Great players go make plays, and it just has to do with how deep it goes."