Hampton contributed 16 points and 10 boards and freshman guard Natasha Vital had a career-high 12 points. Casey Nash, the Pac-10's current leader in scoring, had 18 points for the Beavers while Jasmine Smith added 15 points. Judie Lomax had 12 points and 7 boards.
Walker came up big at both ends of the floor at the end of the game, and Vital hit 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to ensure the victory.
The Bears came into the game off the historic high of sweeping the Washington schools on the road for the first time in Cal's history, and opened this game with confidence, running out to a 7-0 lead.
OSU's stars for the evening then stepped forward and made their presence known. Nash hit a three-pointer with 4 seconds left on the shot clock, followed by 3 free-throws from Smith, who was fouled on her trey attempt. Lomax then stole the ball and nailed a short jumper, and the Beavers had their first and, it turned out, their only lead of the game, 8-7.
Walker carried Cal for the first few minutes of the game, scoring 10 of the Bears' first 11 points.
"When it's one person who scores most of the points at the beginning of the game, that just means that we need to do a better job of getting other people touches," said Walker.
"LaVonda (Wagner, OSU's coach) always prepares really well for us, and she did tonight," said Cal head coach Joanne Boyle. "We came out with a great game plan, and the kids knew the scouting report very well; everything we did was exactly what we wanted."
|AP Photo/George Nikitin
Lauren Greif Guarding Mercedes Fox-Griffin
Cal's defense then clamped down and held OSU to 2 points for the next 9 minutes. The Bears fought through or switched on every screen, and the Beavers, while a patient team, found themselves in danger of a shot clock violation on nearly every possession. The Bears soon pushed their lead into double digits.
"I give Cal credit for that," said Oregon State coach Wagner. "They took us out of what we wanted to do."
In particular, the Bears shut down the Pac-10's leading scorer, Casey Nash.
"We wanted to switch on all screens, deny her the ball and make her take tough shots," said Boyle. "Ashley (Walker), Devanei (Hampton), Rama (N'diaye) and Krista (Foster) were primarily on her. The key for us was communicating. They set so many screens and double screens and she curls. I thought we did a great job, and then we took advantage of her on the low block trying to get some fouls."
When Walker went out with 2 fouls (both offensive) with 4:17 left, Hampton demonstrated that her recent hot play has not been a fluke. On a fast break, Hampton received the ball from Vital in full flight, gathered herself in the air to avoid the defender, and kissed a lay-up off the glass. Still, the Beavers stayed with the Bears for the remainder of the half, closing with a last-second jumper by Julie Futch to trail only 30-20.
Cal slowly built on their lead in the second half, and when Walker hit a short jumper after one of her jaw-dropping spin-moves, the Bears had their biggest lead of the game, 47-32, with 12 minutes left to play.
|AP Photo/George Nikitin
But Walker also picked up her third and fourth fouls immediately thereafter, and with her on the bench, Oregon State mounted their comeback. Jasmine Smith stepped up and changed the game with her quickness and defense, contesting every pass and driving to the basket. When Smith hit her free throw to complete a three-point play, the Beavers had narrowed the gap to 47-38.
Freshman Rama N'diaye, who started in place of injured Keanna Levy, then found Natasha Vital for a three. Vital returned the favor on the next possession by dishing to N'diaye for a fast break basket. Vital and N'diaye tied for the team-high with 6 assists.
Oregon State was undaunted. Casey Nash showed off her offensive repertoire, hitting two three-pointers and two inside baskets in the next four minutes. The 11-2 Beaver run closed the gap to 2 points (54-52) with 4:14 left in the game. The Bears hurt themselves with a flurry of turnovers.
"We have to handle lapses in the game taking care of the ball," said Boyle. "It's no secret that we're turning the ball over way too many times. When a team gets 10 more shots than you in a game, it's going to put you in a situation like this."
Vital hit two free throws to keep the Beavers at bay. Then came the turning point in the game. With 3:14 left on the clock, Nash drove inside, right at Walker, who was playing with four fouls. Instead of conceding the basket, Walker stood her ground and took a charge, fouling Nash out of the game.
"She is obviously our only senior, our go-to player," said Wagner about Nash. "When she fouled out, it changed the complexion of the game."
"They had scored on me twice in a row," said Walker. "So during the timeout, Coach told me that I needed to play tough defense, and if I foul out, then I foul out. So then I just hung in there when she drove at me. Coach Gottlieb always teases me about not taking charges, so after that play, I thought, if I'm going to sacrifice my body for a charge, then we'd better win this game!"
Walker then scored on a nice drive and dish from Vital at 2:07 to push the score to 58-52. After a Smith jumper whittled the lead to 3, Walker drove the lane and calmly pulled up for a short jumper (60-55), forcing the Beavers to begin fouling. For good measure, she blocked a lay-up attempt by Lomax with fifteen seconds to play, and Vital closed out the scoring with two more free throws.
"Cal played very well down the stretch, and for the whole game," said Wagner.
The Bears will try for a sweep of the Oregon teams on Saturday when they welcome the Oregon Ducks to Haas Pavilion. Game time is 2 p.m.
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