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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

UCLA women will face a familiar California team in tournament semifinals

Bruins, already assured a berth in the NCAA tournament, seek to improve their seeding by winning the conference tournament title for the first time since 2006.

March 10, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • California guard Layshia Clarendon drives against Arizona State guard Olivia Major on Thursday night.
California guard Layshia Clarendon drives against Arizona State guard… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

After receiving a bye into the semifinals, UCLA patiently waited two days to find out who its opponent would be in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Conference women's basketball tournament Friday at Staples Center.

That California earned the matchup was a mild surprise, the sixth-seeded Golden Bears defeating third-seeded Arizona State, 48-43, Thursday at the Galen Center.

Cal, however, is more familiar to the second-seeded Bruins than perhaps any other Pac-10 team.

"Any time we play Cal it's a grind of a game," said UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell, whose team is 26-3. "I think it has a lot to do with our players knowing their players. They've played summer ball together, they've competed against each other in high school."

Cal guard Layshia Clarendon echoed Caldwell.

Clarendon, a sophomore, starred at San Bernardino Cajon High. After scoring a game-high 22 points against Arizona State, she made a reference to a high school rivalry with UCLA players.

"The familiarity factor definitely plays a key into it," she said of playing against the Bruins. "It's kind of like you're cross-town rivals. [It's] Nor Cal-So Cal."

UCLA already is assured of a berth in the NCAA tournament, but the Bruins would like nothing more than to get past the Golden Bears and earn a chance to possibly improve their seeding by winning the conference tournament title for the first time since 2006.

UCLA dispatched Cal, 65-56, in January at Berkeley and won 63-48 at Pauley Pavilion last month. Stanford, which plays Arizona in the other semifinal, is the only team that defeated the Bruins in conference play.

Nevertheless, the Bruins could be tested by a Cal team that also features 6-foot-3 center Talia Caldwell and 6-3 forward DeNesha Stallworth.

Talia Caldwell, who played at Los Angeles Marlborough, said the Bruins and Golden Bears both play with "gritty" styles.

"It gets really physical and it's never a pretty game," she said of their matchups.

Cal (17-14) displayed its grit against Arizona State when the Sun Devils pulled to within one, 44-43, on two free throws by Tenaya Watson with 47.8 seconds remaining. But Clarendon made four free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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