Cal had another balanced effort from their starters. Hampton had 21 points and 9 rebounds, while All Pac-10 teammate Ashley Walker shook off a poor first half to contribute a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. All Freshman First Teamer Natasha Vital continued her strong play with 16 points, and senior Keanna Levy had 10.
“I thought it was a great second half by our team,” said California head coach Joanne Boyle. “We emphasized at half-time that you only get one chance in a tournament. We were lucky to be up one. We only have another twenty minutes left, and the kids responded well.”
“I thought it was a really good game in the first half, and deep into the second half,” said Oregon head coach Bev Smith. “If you look at the stats, they were pretty even. We had a few more shots than Cal did, but we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be in hitting the open shots.”
Cal out-rebounded the Ducks 37-34 and had 9 assists to Oregon’s 9.
Cal avenged its loss in Eugene, where Oregon had beaten Cal by 20 points in their last meeting, 62-42. Boyle, however, said that payback was not a motivation.
“I think we’re using this tournament more as a chance to finish as a great team,” said Boyle. “I don’t think it was any revenge factor. That was not our basketball [in Eugene], when we were going through our February hit-the-wall.”
Devanei Hampton hit a turnaround jumper to start the game. But then both sides went cold, turning the ball over and missing outside jumpers. With nearly 5 minutes gone, the Bears led only 4-3, on Natasha Vital’s lefty drive.
“I knew it was going to be hard to get started,” said Devanei Hampton. “The rims are hard here. But that’s why Coach had us come out here yesterday for a shoot-around. And as Coach says, we need to get to the back end of offense, and it’s going to come. Then my shots started to fall.”
The two teams then traded baskets until a Keanna Levy three gave the Bears a four point lead. Walker got blocked by 6-6 Jessie Shetters, but got the putback and the ensuing free-throw to stretch the Bears’ lead to 14-7.
The Bears then found themselves in some foul trouble as Oregon began to send cutters to the basket. Walker picked up her second violation at the 8:30 mark and went to the bench.
Vital picked up the slack, scoring 9 points in the first half to complement Hampton’s 10.
“I just tried to penetrate more in this game and draw fouls to get to the line,” said Vital. “Just to drive and kick out to open shooters.”
When Krista Foster hit a long jumper near the top of the key, the Bears had a 27-18 lead.
Oregon then went on an 8-0 run, highlighted by two Carolyn Ganes treys. Ganes would match Hampton’s 10 points for the half. Eleanor Haring then hit a last second jumper from the baseline to bring Oregon to within one, 27-26.
“At halftime, in the locker room, Coach came in and asked us, ‘What do you want to do in the second half?’” said Walker. “’Do you want to fight, or do you want to lay down and die?’ We all stood up and said, ‘We’re gonna fight.’”
Ganes continued her hot play in the second half, grabbing an offensive rebound on a Haring missed free-throw and driving past a helpless Ashley Walker, who did not want to pick up her third foul. Ganes’ basket gave Oregon its first lead since early in the game, 28-27.
“I had to concentrate harder on defense,” said Walker. “In the first half, I got into foul trouble and I just couldn’t let affect me because it’s one and done. So I had to really focus.”
Cal responded with their own 10-2 run by going strong to the basket, which resulted in lay-ups and free throws.
A trey each by Tamika Nurse and Ganes and another Ganes jumper made it a one-possession game, 39-38.
The Bears then turned up their defense with a half-court press and an aggressive zone, which seemed to confuse the Ducks. On the other end, the Bears picked up their passing, giving Oregon less time to react. Keanna Levy found space for a three-point basket, and then Hampton hit consecutive baskets after aggressive moves inside. Another Cal steal by Lauren Greif led to a Vital scoring drive and the Bears had their lead back to double-digits, 50-38.
“We went to a more pressing zone, and I think the change in defense helped us,” said Boyle. “The kids really buy in to that defense, and we got some tips and steals. Just trying to change the flow of the game a little bit.”
“We just got a little distracted with their change in defense,” said Smith. “There was just some confusion of when they were in their zone and when they were in their man. We weren’t as precise as we needed to be in executing against their zone. We had a couple of unforced turnovers that gave them some momentum and took some momentum away from us.”
The Ducks hit a couple of three-pointers, but then two more Cal steals led to two lay-ups. The Bears then hit enough of their free throws down the stretch to pull out the win.
NOTES and QUOTES:
· Devanei Hampton played her first game as the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year. She noticed no difference. “It’s the same routine for me. Double-team, triple-team, me and Ashley. Kick it out, re-post.” “It’s pretty simple around here,” said Boyle with a smile.
· Cal had 16 turnovers and forced 20 from Oregon. “You just can’t give a team like Cal extra chances,” said Smith. Cal scored 21 points off Duck turnovers.
· Lauren Greif only had 2 points but was a factor on defense, swarming the perimeter to tip the ball and create steals for her teammates.
· Oregon fell to 16-13 and will await a bid to the WNIT. “I think this has been a very food season for us, and I have to thank the team for that. It’s been fun to coach this team. We don’t want this season to end.”
· The Bears shot 50% in the second half and finished the game at 43% to 35% for the Ducks.
· The Bears’ increased aggressiveness in the second half showed in the number of free throws. In the first half, Walker hit Cal’s only foul shot, but Cal took 24 foul shots to Oregon’s 2 after the break. The Bears hit 18 of 25 (72%) for the game. Oregon committed 21 fouls to Cal’s 13.