Going into the second half down just two points, the Cal women’s basketball team looked as if it had a shot at beating Arizona State, the Pac-10’s second place team. But first the Bears went slack on defense, then went absolutely limp on offense on the way to a 56-40 defeat in Haas Pavilion.
The Sun Devils (16-5, 7-3 Pac-10) hit their first seven shots of the second half to open up a 41-29 lead, but that wasn’t the worst of it for Cal. The Bears went nearly 10 minutes without scoring a point, wasting a defensive resurgence and dooming them to a loss. Their 40 points was a season-low.
The Bears (6-12, 1-8) missed nine straight shots, failed to get to the free throw line a single time and committed six turnovers during the 9:41 break in scoring. They watched their score stay at 29 while the Sun Devils’ point total crept slowly upward from 33, culminating in a Amanda Levens layup that made the score 45-29 with six minutes left in the game.
“A lot of credit goes to (Arizona State’s) defense,” Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer said. “They stopped our penetration, and we didn’t get the ball into the post very well.”
Amber White’s short jumper finally ended the Bears’ misery, but it was clear they wouldn’t get their second conference win for at least one more game.
“You’ll probably think this is odd, but I thought we played a really good game,” said Horstmeyer, which probably says more about her lack of expectation than her team’s performance. “Arizona State came out and hit some shots, but we held them to 56 points. The problem is we only had 40.”
Forward Cian Carvalho led the Sun Devils with 14 points and 7 rebounds, scoring their first five points of the second half to get them off and running after a lackluster opening half that ended 24-22 in her team’s favor.
“When you get two good defensive teams together, it’s often ugly,” Arizona State head coach Charlie Turner-Thorne said of the first half.
But the second half was only ugly on one side, and that was Cal’s. They shot just 30 percent from the floor in the second half, compared to 55 percent from ASU even though the Sun Devils were just 1-of-7 from the 3-point line in the half. Take that away, and Turner-Thorne’s crew shot 10-of-13 after the break.
Meanwhile, the Bears were getting killed on the glass. After out-rebounding ASU 18-14 and giving up just two offensive boards in the first half, Cal collected just 8 rebounds in the second half, while the Devils pulled down 10 on the offensive side alone.
Cal lost big despite holding ASU’s top threats, Levens and center Melody Johnson, to a combined 18 points. While Carvalho had some big baskets, it was clearly Cal’s lack of offense that decided the game.
Guard LaTasha O’Keith led the Bears with 13 points, with no other Cal player in double figures. Senior Ami Forney, the team’s leading scorer with 12.9 points per game coming into Thursday’s contest, took just four shots and had only 7 points.
“We need to get the ball into the post better, and get Ami more shots,” Horstmeyer said. “We aren’t shooting well enough to live on the outside.”