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UCLA Definitely Doesn't Look Like a Wallflower

Bruins defeat California, 80-63, moving closer to Pac-10 tournament title and the `Big Dance.'

March 05, 2006|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

SAN JOSE — UCLA can now enjoy the rest of the Pacific 10 Conference women's basketball tournament. That dance ticket should be in the mail.

An 80-63 victory over sixth-seeded California on Saturday in HP Pavilion should end any lingering doubts about the worthiness of the third-seeded Bruins for the NCAA tournament.

Four Bruins finished in double figures, led by Noelle Quinn with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Bruins (18-10) shot 53.2% (33 of 62) from the field, had a tournament-record 20 steals (seven by Lisa Willis, who had 14 points) and flustered Cal into 23 turnovers.

"It was ... like an NCAA atmosphere today, and I think our team responded to that," Coach Kathy Olivier said. "They had a very good focus and intensity. If we can do that for 40 minutes, I think we can compete with anyone in the country."

As UCLA moves on to today's semifinal against Arizona State , senior point guard Nikki Blue said the team would not lower that focus and intensity.

"Last night we had a team meeting in my [hotel] room," said Blue, who had 14 points and a tournament-record 11 assists. "I said, 'This could very well be our last game. And we don't want to put our hopes of the NCAA in the hands of others.' We wanted to come out here and play very, very hard."

The Bears (18-11) have been carried this season by their standout quartet of freshman starters. But only one of them had a standout game Saturday. Center Devanei Hampton made eight of 13 shots, seven of 10 free throws, and had 23 points and 14 rebounds. It was her ninth double-double this season, the most in the Pac-10.

"I was about to say she's going to be a great player, but she's already a great player," Olivier said of Hampton.

The others were neutralized. Point guard Alexis Gray-Lawson had 13 points, but one assist and nine turnovers. Forward Ashley Walker made only four of 11 shots for nine points. Guard Jene Morris had eight points but took only eight shots.

"I thought we might go through some shock the first five minutes and then adjust," Coach Joanne Boyle said. "All week [the coaches] kept saying 'It's transition defense, transition defense.' I felt they knew the importance of that, but UCLA came out on fire.

"UCLA came out with an intensity that they knew they were not only going for a Pac-10 championship but an NCAA run. And I don't think my team matched that intensity, or understood about stealing games and leaving everything on the floor."

In another quarterfinal game:

Arizona State 74, Oregon State 66 -- Freshman reserve guard Danielle Orsillo scored 15 points for the second-seeded Sun Devils (24-5). Mandy Close and Kim Butler each scored 19 points for seventh-seeded Oregon State (15-14).

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