The No. 12 seeded Cal Golden Bears knocked off the No. 5 seeded Sun Devils 71-67, in the first game of the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
ASU (20-11) in the first meeting with Cal (12-18) blew the Golden Bears out of the water with a 77-54 victory in Tempe. The Golden Bears seemed to have forgotten the notion of having the worst record in the conference.
Cal jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with a layup by senior guard Jaelyn Brown. They would quickly lose that lead and trail the Sun Devils the rest of the first half.
ASU found ways to bridge a gap between it and Cal with spurts of 6-0 runs. With 3:05 left in the second quarter, the Sun Devils had their largest lead at 15. Cal responded by going on a 7-0 run themselves to cut the deficit to single digits, before senior forward Jamie Ruden made a 3-pointer before the end of the half.
ASU looked as if they were on their way to a third meeting with Arizona, as they shot 44 percent from the field and had 12 points off of Cal turnovers.
The Golden Bears looked to have made some adjustments in the locker room over halftime. They came out swinging in the third quarter, scoring 27 points and using two separate runs to bring themselves back into the game. The first run was a 7-0 run that brought them to within five for the first time since early on in the game.
It was the second run that saw Cal not only come back to life but take over the game. ASU lead 46-35 with under two minutes to go in the third quarter. Brown would proceed to knock down Cal’s next shot. They would proceed to start a full court press. ASU seemed to have no way of beating the press, as they would turn the ball over five times in one minute of game time.
“We threw it sideways, we wanted to go from the middle and attack from there,” coach Charli Turner Thorne said postgame about the press. “I thought it was mainly our young players, just weren't on page with what we wanted to do.”
The Golden Bears would end the third quarter on a 13-0 run, but they weren't done scoring on the Sun Devils defense. As they opened the fourth quarter, Cal made their first 3 shots, two coming off ASU turnovers. Cal had erased an 11-point deficit and turned it into a nine-point lead over the course of 2:21 of play.
In the third quarter alone, the Sun Devils were called for seven fouls. This led to Cal getting 12 trips to the free throw line to put themselves back in the game. ASU had one shot from the charity strike.
ASU had to play from behind the rest of the game, as they tried to regroup and not face an upset in day one of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Sun Devils had a strong 7-0 run of their own that was built off free throws and Cal turnovers. Freshman guard Cailyn Crocker was called for an intentional foul that put Reili Richardson to the line. Richardson, an 87 percent free throw shooter coming in, made both and the Sun Devils trailed by one, 67-66, with 1:03 to go.
ASU had a chance to take the lead but senior forward Ja’Tavia Tapley was called for an offensive foul in the low post. Cal’s possession saw Crocker draw the foul on Tapley and split the free throws and lead 67-65.
After the Golden Bears took a timeout to set their defense up, ASU’s second opportunity to take the lead came off of two 3-point attempts by Richardson. Neither shot would go in as CJ West would secure the defensive rebound.
West would make her two free throws and the game seemed to be over with no timeouts for ASU. Robbi Ryan missed a 3-pointer but Richardson came down with the offensive board and scored with two seconds to go.
After being fouled and .6 seconds running off the clock, Crocker made both of her free throws to seal the upset win for the Golden Bears.
“Credit Cal, they’re playing well right now,” Turner Throne said. “They did a great job. A very aggressive game. A lot of free throws. We can’t give teams free throws and win and we cant turn the ball over.”
What will the team take from this game moving forward into the NCAA Tournament?
“Getting back to practicing,” Richardson said. “Doing the little things...we usually don't turn the ball over as much. I know we have been having trouble breaking the press recently, so we need to get back to breaking the press in practice against out guys.”
Tapley added that she wants to get back to her strengths.
“I feel like I need to work on this is breaking is finishing strong and using more setups,” Tapley said. “Not going away from my strengths for the team.”
Ryan lastly added that the little things caught up to them but a sense of urgency will be focused on.
“Just bring that sense of urgency for my team,” Ryan said. “Making sure that the underclassman know what it is like to play in these big games.”