ASU falls to Cal in Pac-10 tournament semifinals
Devanei Hampton swore she'd be ready on the heels of a sub-par performance, and the California star showed up with 19 points and 16 rebounds to lift the 10th-ranked Golden Bears past Arizona State 65-61 on Sunday and into their first Pac-10 tournament title game.
Just when it looked like another down day on offense for Hampton, she scored six points during an 8-0 spurt to start the second half. Last year's Pac-10 Player of the Year pulled down 13 boards - seven of those on the offensive end - in the first half after getting just seven in 34 minutes against Oregon on Saturday.
But Hampton also bounced back with a strong second half on offense after shooting 2-for-14 in the first 20 minutes. Natasha Vital added 14 points and Ashley Walker had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Cal (26-5), which had to hold off a late rally to advance to Monday's title game.
The Bears will face either top-seeded and No. 6 Stanford or fifth-seeded UCLA, and lost both meetings with the rival Cardinal during the regular season, 72-52 and 60-58.
Third-seeded Arizona State (21-10) had the momentum heading into halftime but missed its first four shots out of the break and then went 4 1/2 minutes without scoring while the Bears rolled. Dymond Simon led her team with 22 points, Briann January scored 15 before fouling out, and Jill Noe added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Simon's 3-pointer from the left corner with 27.5 seconds left cut Cal's lead to four and she scored again the next time down to make it 64-61.
The Sun Devils, who had their five-game winning streak snapped, were trying to reach the tournament title game for the second straight year. They won the inaugural 2002 conference tournament, and the event will move to Los Angeles next March after six years in San Jose and one in Eugene, Ore.
Kelsey Adrian's 3 with 10:18 to play put Cal up 51-40 and the Bears led by as many as 16 before the Sun Devils got back in it. Arizona State started the half 3-for-19.
The Sun Devils are still likely to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which would be the program's fourth straight berth and sixth in eight years. ASU dropped all three meetings with Cal this season.
Noe scored the final six points of the first half for Arizona State, which led 34-33 at the break after shooting 48 percent to Cal's 29 percent. Cal held a 27-14 rebounding advantage in the half and finished up with a 44-34 edge.
The Bears earned a hard-fought 67-60 victory over Oregon on Saturday that was sloppy at times - and they still aren't quite as sharp as coach Joanne Boyle would like.
Sun Devils coach Charli Turner Thorne used her usual wave substitution pattern but her post players seemed to run out of gas trying to slow down Hampton, Walker and Co. ASU, which posted its fourth straight 20-win season, didn't grab its first offensive rebound until Lauren Lacey had one at the 7:22 mark of the first half.
Cal held a 12-3 rebounding edge 7 1/2 minutes into the game, seven of those by Hampton.
Two former Bay Area stars sat together alongside one baseline: Olympic gold medalist and former Stanford guard Jennifer Azzi and 1999 U.S. soccer World Cup winner Brandi Chastain. LPGA veteran Juli Inkster also was in attendance for pregame tournament festivities.