#2 Arizona State (64) v. #10 Cal (75)
Most expected an Arizona school to be one-and-done at the Pac-12 Tournament.
But hardly anyone thought that team would be Arizona State.
Yet, in the biggest shocker of the tournament thus far, the 25-5 Sun Devils were sent packing, with a 75-64 loss at the hands of the California Golden Bears. That result was the first 10-2 upset in tournament history.
For the second straight day, the Bears looked much more like the team that had been ranked as high as No. 16 in the country earlier in the season, instead of the one that limped to a 13-16 regular season record.
And again, it was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Kristine Anigwe that made her presence felt early and often. The first-year forward finished with 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting, to go along with 11 rebounds.
“Every time I looked at the bench, I was like, we have to win, we can’t go home,” she said.
The Bears will also buoyed by a career-high 17 points from Penina Davidson, who went 7-of-8 from the field, and 16 points from Asha Thomas on 6-of-7 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point range).
Davidson deflected the credit for her performance to the guards for making the passes, and Anigwe for taking much of the pressure from the defense.
“She draws so much attention that it creates opportunities for other people,” she said.
Ultimately, Cal shot 29-of-42 from the field, a Pac-12 Tournament record. From inside the 3-point arc, the Bears were 24-of-29, an almost unheard of 83 percent.
“They hit shots, a lot of shots,” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne, “and we gave them a lot of easy shots in the paint.”
Throughout the night, Cal exploited its height advantage with Anigwe and Davidson in the paint.
“All year long, we’ve overcome it, we’ve worked hard, boxed out,” Thorne said of the size difference. ” … We weren’t locked in today.”
Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said that the Sun Devils counter the disadvantage with tremendous pressure up front, making the interior presence crucial for a victory.
That shooting performance more than made up for Cal’s 26 turnovers on the day.
“When we weren’t throwing it to them,” Gottlieb said, “we were scoring.”
On the other end, the Sun Devils shot just 36 percent from the field, with Sophie Brunner and Kianna Ibis leading Arizona State with 14 points each.
Despite trailing by double-digits earlier, the Sun Devils had the deficit down to two with 4:30 left to play in the third, but Cal outscored Arizona State 11-3 to end the quarter.
A quick 7-2 run to start the fourth ballooned the lead to 17, and while the Sun Devils continued to claw back, it wouldn’t be enough.
In their first two meetings of the year, Arizona State defeated the Bears, by eight in Berkeley, and by 15 in Tempe.
Despite the loss, the Sun Devils are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but their seeding will likely take a hit with the defeat. Meanwhile, Cal’s tourney hopes live for at least one more day.
“We stepped up to the challenge,” Gottlieb said. “We surpassed what people expected us to do.”
#3 UCLA (72) v. #11 Arizona (51)
While everything was working for the Wildcats in their 74-68 upset of Oregon on Thursday, Arizona couldn’t get much going against a full-strength UCLA team.
After trailing by just six after the first quarter, the Wildcats were held to just four points in the second, as the Bruins took a 21-point lead into the break.
That continued well into the third quarter, as UCLA pushed the margin to 31 before a mini 14-6 Arizona stretch. Arizona ultimately won the fourth quarter 23-18, but by then, the damage had long since been done.
Monique Billings led all scorers with 18 points for UCLA, said that Arizona has active, agile posts, which makes it a tough match up.
“I just had to post strong, and I think the guards fed me really, really well,” she said.
LaBrittney Jones was the bright spot for the Wildcats, as the lone player to finish with a double-double, with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
In all, Butts said the early deficit was too much for her team to bounce back from.
“They were making shots early in the first half and we just didn’t have enough to come back,” said Arizona head coach Niya Butts, who will not return next season.
That last handshake at mid-court after the game wasn’t lost on UCLA head coach Cori Close.
“It was a really bittersweet giving Niya her last hug as she went off the court,” Close said. “I have so much respect for her.”
It was also the final college game for Arizona’s lone senior, Keyahndra Cannon. When asked what she would remember most about her time in Tucson, Cannon pointed to the people around her.
“Throughout my years, I feel like I’ve grown as a person, just being around these people,” she said.
UCLA advances to face Cal tomorrow night, a team that has already pulled a pair of upsets against No. 7 Utah and No. 2 Arizona State. For Arizona, the season comes to an end, along with the tenure of its head coach.
Butts said after the game she wasn’t sure what would come next.
“Right now,” she said, “it’s going to be take a deep breathe, and see what happens.”