Devils Finally Get Over Hump, Rout #9 Cal

They finally did it. The Arizona State Women's Basketball did what they haven't been able to do in the last few years, beat the California Golden Bears. The 18th ranked Sun Devils didn't just beat the Bears, they did so convincingly. The 63-41 victory over the 9th ranked Bears set up a showdown on Saturday for the Pac 10 Championship with Stanford.

Just two months ago, ASU wasn't looking like a Pac 10 champion when they lost their second straight conference game on a miracle last second shot to the Bears. But since then, ASU hasn't lost; rattling off a school record 15 straight wins and is just one away from winning their first regular season Pac 10 Championship since 2001 and establishing themselves as a NCAA Tournament contender.

It was a simple quote from one of the Pac 10's best players and it sums up ASU (23-6, 15-2 Pac 10) right now.

"They smelt blood," said Ashley Walker, the Pac 10's leading scorer.

"There was a lot of stuff on the line and they came in and took care of business," said Cal coach Joanne Boyle, "From the very beginning, the tone of the game was set and we don't change the tone."

ASU started the game cold and missed its first three shots and also had a turnover. The Bears couldn't get anything going either and didn't take advantage of ASU's slow start. Sun Devils head coach Charli Turner Thorne actually liked that her team was cold to start.

"In my mind, that was a great way to start the game," said Turner Thorne, "I'd almost rather start that way than with a quick bucket."

ASU's defense was strong from start to finish and it held Cal (23-5, 14-3 Pac 10) to just two points in the first seven minutes of the game and jumped to an 8-2 lead.

Seldom used Australian Gabby Fage hit her first three pointer of the season with 8:46 to play in the first half and ASU led 17-6. Fage hit another big three to give ASU their biggest lead of the half at 24-12 with 4:31 to play in the half.

Dymond Simon hit a jumper as the half ended to give ASU a 29-18 lead at the break. ASU showed why they are the Pac 10's number one defense by holding the potent Cal offense to just 27.3% shooting in the first half.

Cal looked as if it was going to get right back into the game by going on a 14-2 run to cut ASU's lead to just 36-32 with 10:36 to play. It was looking like ASU was going to follow script, lose a lead and fail to beat Cal again, but that wasn't the case coming out of a Turner Thorne timeout.

"We just sat down and we said, that's their run. That's their run for the game. It's all us from here on out," said Turner Thorne, "When I said that, I could tell in their eyes. They were focused. They were ready to come back."

From that point on it was all Sun Devils. ASU went on a 12-0 run that won them the game and was capped by Simon knocking two free throws with 6:18 to play giving ASU a 14-point lead.

The Bears would get no closer than that the rest of the night and ASU picked up their biggest win of the season.

Dymond Simon led the Devils with 15 points and Danielle Orsillo added 13. The story of the night was ASU's defense who held the Bears to 31.8% shooting and held the Pac 10's leading scorer, Ashley Walker, to just eight points. The Bears only lead of the game was 2-0.

"I'm most disappointed with the way we played," said Cal senior Walker. "You don't ever want to lose like this. Not this time of year. Tonight we're disappointed that we let them take our spot."

The Bears were the #2 team in the country just a short time ago, but now they have lost consecutive games for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

The win on Thursday only sets up a bigger game on Saturday. ASU will try to take monkey number two off of its back when it travels to Maples to take on #2 Stanford. If the Devils can win their 16th straight, they will lay claim to a share of the Pac 10 Championship. Tipoff is set for 1:30 PM Arizona time on Saturday, for one of the biggest games in Arizona State history.

"I don't know if we would want it any different," said Turner Thorne. "I don't think we did anything usual tonight. It was just Sun Devil defense at its best."

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