March 7, 2009
BERKELEY, Calif. - For the second-straight game, Arizona trimmed a double-digit deficit down to two in the final moments, but came up short in a 51-48 defeat to #9-ranked California, Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale at Haas Pavilion.
With a three-point lead in tow at the break, Arizona added a tally to their advantage before Cal (24-5, 15-3) used a 13-0 run to seize a 35-26 lead. Natasha Vital hit a pair of floaters in the lane, then Devanei Hampton and Ashley Walker combined for nine-straight points.
Ify Ibekwe broke the drought with a pair of free throws, but Vital added a three-point play of her own to push the lead out to double digits for the first time in the contest for either team.
Just as they did two days ago, the Wildcats were not deterred by a double-digit deficit. The Cats worked the ball inside on three-straight occasions for buckets, the third of which produced a conventional three-point play by Ibekwe to make it 44-39 with 4:26 remaining.
Hampton answered for the Bears two times down the stretch to keep the Wildcats at bay, the second of which proved too much to overcome. After missing a foul shot following the second, Alexis Gray-Lawson tracked down the rebound and converted two free throws after being fouled herself.
Ibekwe came down and hit another jumper in the lane, then Reiko Thomas hit two free throws after a miss by Vital. Gray-Lawson turned the ball over as the Cats went to their 2-2-1 press, setting Thomas up for a driving lay-up and a 50-48 scoreline with 55 seconds to play.
Arizona looked to have earned a chance to tie or take the lead after Ashley Walker missed the mark, but Amina Njonkou was ruled to have been tied up and the possession arrow stayed with the Golden Bears.
Gray-Lawson was fouled and hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 51-48 with 21 seconds to play. Reiko Thomas hoisted a three-pointer in traffic as the clock wound down, but her shot was short and Arizona did not get another serious look at the basket.
Though the Cats struggled to a 7-for-25 (.280) first half shooting line, they knocked down 7-of-8 free throws and only committed four turnovers. The defense was the real story as the Golden Bears were only 1-of-12 (.083) from three-point range and 5-of-9 at the charity stripe.
A three-pointer by Ashley Frazier broke a 17-17 deadlock and helped the Wildcats outscore the Golden Bears, 6-3, heading into the break. She followed a pair of free throws by Ashley Walker with one of her own, then Ibekwe converted a pair from the stripe. Hampton completed the scoring by hitting 1-of-2 at the line with 22 seconds remaining.
After scoring just seven points in the first half, Hampton and Walker combined for 23 total points and 16 rebounds for the contest. Vital also finished with 12 points while Gray-Lawson and nine points and seven rebounds.
Ibekwe compiled her 15th double-double of the season with game-highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds to go along with three blocked shots and three steals for Arizona. Frazier added nine points while Njonkou added seven points and six rebounds.
Arizona (11-18, 4-14) will play an opening round game in the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament on Thursday, March 12th. The Wildcats, who enter the tournament as the #9 seed, will take on 8th-seeded Washington State in the Galen Center on the campus of USC at 8:15 p.m. (PST)