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Basketball: Cal women seek redemption, face Washington in Pac-10 tourney opener

The Cal women’s basketball team has skidded into the Pac-10 tournament with seven defeats in its past eight games, but forward DeNesha Stallworth believes the Golden Bears can turn the page on their season beginning Wednesday night.

“It’s time for us to redeem ourselves and show we can play,” the sophomore from Pinole said.

The sixth-seeded Golden Bears (15-14, 7-11) face Washington (11-16, 6-12) in a 7:15 p.m. game at USC’s Galen Center. A victory would push them into Thursday’s quarterfinal against either Arizona State or Oregon State.

The women’s tournament will move to the Staples Center for the semifinals on Friday, joining the Pac-10 men. Cal has advanced to at least the semifinal round four straight seasons.

As the two top seeds, Stanford (27-2, 18-0) and UCLA (26-3, 16-2) have double-byes to the semis. The championship game is Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Staples.

Stallworth, who was named to the All-Pac-10 team Tuesday and leads the Bears with a 14.0 scoring average but is coming off her first scoreless college effort in a 24-point loss to Pac-10 champion Stanford, said the season has been disappointing.

The Bears expected to finish “at least third” in the Pac-10, Stallworth said, and when that goal became unattainable the Bears too easily gave into losing.

“We felt like we failed instead of trying to bounce back,” Stallworth said.

Coach Joanne Boyle said a last-second, 45-44 loss at Arizona State on Feb. 5 triggered a downward spiral the Bears haven’t escaped.

“That really shook us and we kind of fell apart a little bit,” she said. “Every other game it was something different why we were losing.”

Cal lost twice in the regular season to Washington, shooting a combined 31.5 percent and turning the ball over 36 times in the two games. Rated just the 224th-best 3-point shooting team in the country, the Bears hoisted up 37 shots from beyond the arc against UW and made just seven.

Boyle put senior Rachelle Federico into the starting lineup two games ago, and she has scored 31 points to spark improved backcourt production.

The bottom line, Boyle said, is the players need to show some pride this week in Los Angeles.

“I don’t think our team is at all intimidated,” she said. “I think they’re hungry to show they can mature and play good tournament ball.”

Jeff Faraudo