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ASU rally comes up short against No. 9 Cal

January 17, 2008

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -A Bay Area women's basketball team is alone in first place in the Pac-10, and for a change it's not Stanford.

Devanei Hampton scored a career-high 28 points, 17 in the first half, and No. 8 California stayed unbeaten in the conference with a 64-51 victory over Arizona State on Thursday night.

Ashley Walker added 13 points, seven in a row over a 2:19 span of the second half to lift the Bears out of trouble en route to their eighth consecutive win. The school record is 10 straight victories.

California (16-2, 7-0 Pac-10) won in Tempe for the first time since 1999 and is off to its best start since going 17-2 in the 1983-84 season.

"We're honored that we're in first place right now," Hampton said, "but we still have a long ways to go."

For most of the night, Cal took the Sun Devils out of their trademark fast-paced, pressure-defense game.

"If you take bad shots, they're rebounding and running," Bears coach Joanne Boyle said. "I thought we did a really good job, Devanei particularly in the first half, of just taking really good shots."

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the unranked Sun Devils (11-6, 5-1), who rallied from 23 down in the first half to cut the lead to four in the second.

"We do that a lot, which is not a good thing," Arizona State's Lauren Lacey said. "We get down and we always somehow come back and somehow go on a run, but against a top-10 ranked team and the top-ranked team in the Pac-10 as of right now, you can't do that."

Briann January scored 16 and Lacey 10 for the Sun Devils, who missed their first 11 shots and ended up 33 percent from the field, 1-for-13 from 3-point range.

Cal led 16-0 and 33-10 but a 15-1 run late in the first half and early in the second helped Arizona State close it to 40-36. Hampton, though, scored five consecutive points to lift the Bears back into control, 45-36 with 12:23 to play.

Arizona State climbed back one more time by making 6-of-8 free throws, the last two by Kirsten Thompson, to slice the lead to 47-42 with 8:08 to go. Walker scored three times inside, the second for a three-point play, and Cal led 54-42 with 5:24 to go.

"I came out real quick before that sequence," Walker said. "Coach just looked at me and basically said `We need you. We need you to get every rebound and every loose ball.' That's something I'm known for."

The Sun Devils never got closer than 10 after that.

Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said she barely recognized her team.

"I mean, I'm perplexed," she said. "We did not practice like this. The only thing I can ever come up with as a coach when something like this happens is we just tried too hard. We just maybe put too much pressure on ourselves."

Hampton, a 6-foot-3 junior who missed nine games early this season while recovering from surgery on her right knee, dominated inside early, going 8-for-11 in the first half. She finished 13-for-23 overall.

She scored six in a 10-0 Cal run that put the Bears ahead 33-10 with 2:36 left. The Sun Devils finally got their offense rolling, outscoring California 11-1 over the final 2 1/2 minutes of the half to cut the lead to 34-21 at the break.

The run reached 15-1 when Arizona State scored the first four points of the second half, cutting the lead to 34-26 on Dymond Simon's steal and layup. Natasha Vital's 3-pointer boosted the lead to 37-26 with 18:30 to play, and it was 40-28 when Alexis Gray-Lawson made a 3 with 17:14 to go.

A pair of blocked shots by ASU's Kayli Murphy and one by Jill Noe highlighted the 8-0 run that cut it to 40-36 on Simon's two free throws with 13:21 left. But Hampton followed a 3-point play with an inside basket and Cal was on top 45-36 12:33 before the end.

Cal plays Saturday against an Arizona team that's 0-6 in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils are home Sunday against No. 7 Stanford.

"I really think we match up pretty well with Cal. We just didn't execute our game plan very well," Turner Thorne said. "Stanford, in some ways, I think is a tougher matchup."