Markel Walker matched her season high with 23 points, Jasmine Dixon added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 14 UCLA advanced to its fourth Pacific-12 Conference tournament title game with a dominant 70-58 win over No. 5 California on Saturday night at KeyArena in Seattle.
The Bruins will seek their second Pac-12 crown in tonight’s final against No. 4 Stanford – a 61-47 winner over No. 18 Colorado in the other semifinal. UCLA won its only conference tournament title in 2006 when it pulled off upsets of Arizona State
and Stanford to win the title. This will be the Bruins’ third appearance in the title game in the past four years.
UCLA was efficient offensively, and California could not solve the Bruins’ zone defense. The Bears (28-3) shot 29 percent and saw their 16-game winning streak come to an end.
Brittany Boyd led Cal with 18 points, but the Bears might have seen any hope of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament vanish.
The loss also ruined a possible third showdown between the Bears and Bay Area rival Stanford in the conference title game. Instead it’ll be the Bruins playing for the title — and deservedly so.
UCLA avenged two regular-season losses to Cal, including a 28-point loss at home in mid-February. UCLA has won six consecutive games since getting swept by the Bay Area schools. Besides Walker’s 10-for-13 shooting, she grabbed seven rebounds. Alyssia Brewer added 13 points, and Atonye Nyingifa scored 11 for the Bruins.
UCLA played a nearly flawless first half, leading by as many as 22 points. The Bruins shot 55 percent, were perfect at the free-throw line and had assists on 10 of their 15 field goals. Walker had 13 points in the first half and came up with two of UCLA’s seven steals. The Bruins outscored Cal in the paint in the first half, 22-6, and 42-22 for the game.
Layshia Clarendon added 14 for California on 6-for-22 shooting. She was part of a miserable shooting night for the Bears, especially during the opening 20 minutes.
California’s terrible first half featured a stretch of nine straight missed shots during an eight-minute span without a field goal and zero ability to solve UCLA’s zone defense. The Bears missed all 11 of their 3-point attempts, shot 20 percent and were dominated on the boards.
Clarendon was the most frustrated. The Bears’ leading scorer got plenty of open looks but missed eight of her final nine shots in the half. Eliza Pierre’s steal and layup with 2:41 remaining in the half finally snapped the Bears’ shooting skid and that basket finally got California into double figures.
It didn’t get much better in the second half. California missed its first 13 3-point attempts total before Boyd hit from deep with 14:45 remaining. By that point, the Bears trailed by 21 and could only get as close in the second half as the final score despite finally knocking down some perimeter shots.
All three of California’s losses this season have come to teams ranked in The Associated Press top 15 (No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Stanford and No. 14 UCLA).
No. 4 Stanford 61, No. 18 Colorado 47: The Cardinal overcame a rare halftime deficit behind Chiney Ogwumike’s 25 points, 19 rebounds and three blocked shots in the victory over the Buffaloes.
Stanford has reached the championship game in every year of the tournament
Neither team shot well. Stanford (30-2), which trailed 28-27 at halftime, converted 19 of 55 shots (34.5 percent). Colorado (25-6) shot just 29.7 percent – 19 of 64.
Amber Orrange had 13 points, and Mikaela Ruef added 11 points for the Cardinal.
Chucky Jeffery’s 19 points led the way for the Buffaloes, but she made just 9 of 26 shots.