Basketball: Cal women fall to Bruins

Here’s my game story from this afternoon’s Cal-UCLA women’s Pac-10 tournament semifinal:

LOS ANGELES — Cal women’s basketball coach Joanne Boyle had seen it before. Her took an early hit from UCLA on Friday in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals and couldn’t muster the fight to battle back in a 63-50 defeat at the Staples Center.

The seventh-ranked Bruins (27-3) jumped out to an 11-1 lead after 4 minutes, then kept the Bears (17-15) on their heels all afternoon with pressure defense that forced Cal into 34-percent shooting and 19 turnovers.

UCLA transformed those giveaways into 29 points, sending the Bears home one victory shy of reaching Saturday’s championship game against powerhouse Stanford. The Bruins and Cardinal square off at 11:30 a.m.

The Bruins led by as many as 23 points, and Boyle said her club’s inability to fight through adversity is a recurring theme.

“It’s my biggest frustration,” she said. “We got punched in the head a little bit and we got deflated and we didn’t respond to it. When it comes easy, we’re good. We need to find the `it’ factor when it gets tough.”

The Bears, who reached the Pac-10 tournament semifinals for the fifth straight year by beating Washington and Arizona State on two previous days, expect an invitation to play a WNIT road game next week.

UCLA’s approach is to attack with its defensive quickness, but the Bruins also beat the taller Bears 40-32 on the boards. Cal shot 3 for 19 from 3-point range and often was guilty of ill-advised shot selection. Mostly, the Bears struggled to handle pressure.

“We talked about the press break and breaking it with confidence and people wanting to be part of the press break,” Boyle said. “Sometimes we have people hide instead of everybody participating.”

Sophomore guard Layshia Clarendon, who scored 21 points Thursday against Arizona, was 0 for 6 from the field against the Bruins. Cal’s three starting guards made just one of 12 shots and totaled five points.

“I think it’s our immaturity still,” Clarendon said. “When things get tough we don’t get together and find a way. It’s more like we all go into our little shell.”

Freshman guard Afure Jemerigbe came off the bench to lead Cal with 17 points. Sophomore forward DeNesha Stallworth had nine points and eight rebounds, but shot 3 for 12.

Jeff Faraudo