#3 UCLA (73), #10 Cal (67)
For almost three quarters, the Cal Golden Bears looked poised to pull a third straight tournament upset.
But foul trouble for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Kristine Anigwe, and the fatigue of a third game in as many days would prove to be too much to overcome in the closing minute, in a 73-67 UCLA victory in overtime.
And though Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said the best feeling is the celebration that comes with a win, there’s something valuable about the heartbreak of a defeat.
“The second best thing, in some weird way, is having your guts ripped out and feeling like you want to cry,” she said, “because that means you left everything out there.”
Throughout the first 30 minutes, Cal held the Bruins at arm’s length, but a 10-0 Bruins run from the end of the third through the early minutes of the fourth quarter — after Anigwe checked out with her fourth foul — gave UCLA its first lead of the night.
“When we were down by 14, I knew that we weren’t going to back down,” said UCLA guard Jordin Canada, who had 26 points on the night. “We fought all season, and it wasn’t anything new.”
The two teams traded leads throughout the fourth quarter, as Anigwe returned with about six minutes to play. With 17 seconds left, the Golden Bears held a three-point lead, with Gabby Green at the free-throw line.
With a chance to put the game away, Green missed both, as Kari Korver answered with a 3-pointer as she was fouled with eight seconds left. However, she too was unable to capitalize at the line, and a Thomas miss at the buzzer sent the game to overtime.
Despite shooting struggles on Saturday, and in the team’s second round matchup with Arizona, UCLA head coach Cori Close said her team had all the confidence in the world that Korver could make the big shot when it counted.
“She’s been putting in the work, and her teammates never doubted her,” Close said.
In the extra period, UCLA outscored the Bears 12-6, as Cal went just 2-of-12 from the field.
“Both teams left it all on the floor, and they made the critical plays at the exact right time,” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb also had strong praise for Anigwe, who finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
“If she’s not national freshman of the year,” she said, “I don’t know who is.”
With a sub-.500 record, it seems unlikely that Cal would get a postseason bid, but a WNIT bid does remain a possibility if things break right.
“I just wish we could have gotten one more stop,” Gottlieb said.
#1 Oregon State (57), #5 Washington (55)
In the last two Pac-12 Tournament championships, fans were given a match up that didn’t involve either of the top two seeds.
With Arizona State’s loss on Friday, the No. 2 seed again won’t play on Sunday.
But No. 1 Oregon State will be there.
In front of a Seattle crowd that was as pro-Beavers as it was pro-Dawgs, the Beavers were again propelled by their play-making trio of Ruth Hamblin, Sydney Wiese, and Jamie Weisner in a 57-55 victory at KeyArena.
The Huskies were plagued by poor second-half shooting, going just 6-of-32 from the field in the final 20 minutes.
Despite trailing by two at the half, Oregon State fought back to take a seven-point lead with 6:16 to play. But then, the scoring woes hit the Beavers just as hard, and they wouldn’t put another point on the board.
Washington cut the deficit to two with 36 seconds to play after a Chantel Osahor 3-pointer, and forced a shot clock violation on the Beavers with just five seconds left.
UW head coach Mike Neighbors said the decision to defend with a five second difference between the game and shot clocks was a matter of Oregon State’s strong free throw shooting.
“It felt like our only chance to win the game was dig in, get a stop, and go fast,” he said.
And while the Huskies got that stop, a lay-in by Kelsey Plum bounced out as time expired.
The Beavers held Plum to a season-low 14 points on 4-of-19 shooting, while Osahor led the Huskies with 18.
When asked how the Beavers were able to shut down Plum for most of the night, Weisner had two words: Gabby Hanson.
While Hamblin, Wiese, and Weisner combined for 46 of the Beavers’ 57 points on the night (Weisner with a game-high 20), it was Hanson who was given the tall task of defending one of the conference’s most explosive players.
“That’s who she is, and what she does,” said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck, who also noted that part of the team’s game plan on Plum was to keep her from getting to the free-throw line.
Despite playing three games in three days, Osahor insisted that the Huskies weren’t tired. Her coach, however, felt differently.
“They are exhausted,” he said. “We are not built for three games in three days.”
And while the Huskies won’t be returning to KeyArena on Sunday, Neighbors wants the rest of Seattle to be there.
“We’ve got a chance to break the all-time record for attendance at this Pac-12 Tournament,” he said. “And a good crowd tomorrow night, the finals deserve it. UCLA and Oregon State deserve a great crowd.”