Cal Edges ASU 72-67 For First Pac-10 Win of 2002-03

Dec. 29, 2002

BERKELEY - California turned in a strong all-around game to defeat Arizona State, 72-67, at Haas Pavilion on Sunday afternoon for its first Pac-10 win of the season. Guard LaTasha O'Keith came off the bench to lead the Golden Bears with a career-high 18 points.

The Bears, who improve their record to 4-5 (1-1 in the Pac-10), shook off Friday's loss to Arizona to handle the Sun Devils, who fall to 8-3 (0-2). On the heels of Cal's 31.3 percent field goal shooting and Arizona's 64.3 percent effort on Friday, Cal shot a season-best 49 percent against ASU and held the Sun Devils to 38. 5 percent.

'Arizona State had really taken it at us, and I think a lot of teams would have folded and that would have been the end,' Cal coach Caren Horstmeyer said. 'But this team has so much character and wants to win so bad that I think today they came in and believed in each other, they believed in what we're doing, and they did what it takes to win. I'm just so excited for them. This is the first quality win - really, truly [against] a team that's getting votes in the Top 25, a very good team that beat Georgia who's a very good team - in a while.'

The win marked Horstmeyer's first ever against ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, a former assistant to Horstmeyer when both were at Santa Clara. It was also Cal's first win over the Sun Devils since taking a 60-55 home overtime victory in the 1999-00 season.

Cal got 10 points and seven rebounds from Leigh Gregory and season highs in scoring from Nihan Anaz and Jacqueline Sanchez, who each had 10. Center Olga Volkova chipped in four points and a career-high eight boards. Freshman Jill Noe paced ASU with 21 points before fouling out late in the game. Fellow freshman Amy Denson had a double-double for ASU with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

ASU won the overall rebounding battle, 40-37.

Cal took the lead for good at 65-64 with a Gregory free throw with 1:49 remaining in the game. ASU had two chances to tie the score, but Iman Young missed the second of two free throws at 66-65 with 1:03 left and Carrie Buckner missed a layup at 67-65 with 32 seconds left. Down 71-67, Noe missed a three-point shot and O'Keith grabbed the board. Noe fouled her to foul out of the game, and O'Keith made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe for the final tally.

'Tasha was unbelievable,' Horstmeyer said. 'Nihan [5-of-6 shooting for 10 first-half points] really started us off well and gave us confidence from the beginning of the game, because she came out and she attacked.

'This was an incredible team effort. You can talk about our bench play, which was unbelievable. Jacqueline, we know she can post smaller guards. We went to her inside. Tasha's defense was unbelievable. Leigh Gregory gives us tremendous leadership and just confidence, because she doesn't get rattled.'

ASU shot 44.4 percent from the field in the first half, but the Bears tightened the defense in the second stanza, when the Sun Devils shot just 31 percent.

'We haven't had a great focus defensively,' Horstmeyer said. 'We've committed to that in about the last three days. They really took it to heart today. We knew it would be a defensive battle, although Arizona State scored more points than usual, it really, truly was a defensive battle. I thought it was an exciting game.'

In the first half, ASU went up by six when Noe hit a three-pointer to make the score 38-32 with 1:57 left. But two Renee Wright free throws and a Sanchez layup with 11 seconds left gave ASU a 38-36 lead at the break.

In the second half, Volkova hit a layup at 14:47 to give the Bears a 47-45 lead, their first since Anaz gave them a 2-0 lead in the game's opening moments. Heroics by O'Keith and her teammates held of ASU, last year's Pac-10 Tournament champion.

'Last game, we lost by 30 [83-53],' O'Keith said. 'We didn't want to feel that anymore. We were all pretty upset. We knew we all had to come and give everything we had to win.'

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