Bruins Topple No. 4 Bears, 71-56
March 1, 2009
LOS ANGELES (AP)--Erica Tukiainen had the biggest game of her career, and UCLA was happy it came against No. 4 California.
Tukiainen scored 18 of her career-high 25 points in the second half, and UCLA upset the Golden Bears 71-56 on Sunday. The win was UCLA's biggest against a ranked opponent since Jan. 7, 2008, when the team beat No. 2 Stanford.
"Coach told us we needed an extra spark," Tukiainen said. "I was in the zone and we got it done."
The Bruins (17-10, 8-8 Pac-10) sure did, knocking Cal (23-4, 14-2) from the top spot in the conference standings. The Golden Bears were sharing the No.1 position with Stanford, which defeated Southern California 85-74 on Sunday, before the loss.
The Bruins hit two key 3-pointers, one by Christina Nzekwe at 5:55 and another by Tukiainen at 5:20, to give the Bruins the lead for good at 54-49.
"She knocked down big shots for us," UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell said. "She did a fantastic job in anchoring us. She battled in there when she was undersized and offensively, she had one of her most productive nights."
Tukiainen, who finished 11-of-16 from the field, also had three 3s for UCLA, which beat California for the first time since December 2006.
Cal managed to score just one basket in the final 7:39 and was 1-for-9 down the stretch.
The Golden Bears' final six points came from the free-throw line.
"We were not focused. We were sloppy and we turned it over," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "We got away with one on Friday (against USC), but it caught up with us today."
Darxia Morris had 18 for UCLA, which is 1-4 against ranked opponents this season.
Ashley Walker led Cal with 17 points and 11 rebounds and scored her 2,000th career point when she made a layup with 18:17 remaining in the second half. Walker became the second player in Cal history and the 11th in Pac-10 history to do so.
Devanei Hampton, who finished with 11, reached her own milestone when she scored on a jumper at 7:40 to post her 1,500th career point. Both Hampton and Walker declined to speak with the media following the loss.
"It's a great accomplishment," Boyle said. "It should be a joyous occasion for these two kids but losing makes it difficult."
Lauren Greif had 13 for Cal, which started out the second half on a 9-2 run to take a 36-32 lead, its first since 5:12 of the first half.
Hampton had two layups and a free throw and Walker added four in a 2:20 span.
Cal, which had won the last four matchups, couldn't get shots to fall down the stretch, though, and missed opportunities when it mattered most.
Casey Morris turned the ball over with 18 seconds left and both she and Greif missed 3-pointers with less than a minute remaining that would have brought Cal within six.
UCLA's Morris, a sophomore guard and six-game starter this season, stepped in to give UCLA a boost.
Morris went 6-for-10 from the field for 12 points and helped the Bruins' defense cause fits for the Golden Bears' post players.
"Our offense rolled off of our defense," said guard Doreena Campbell, who finished with seven points. "We put more ball pressure on their guards and tried to make it more difficult for them to get the ball into the post."
Cal had trouble getting a pass into Walker and Hampton and threw the ball away when trying to force it in.
Hampton was 0-for-1 in the first and Walker had eight points, mostly on putbacks.
The Bruins were down for most of the first until Morris scored six straight to give UCLA a 24-21 lead. UCLA took a 30-27 halftime lead behind Morris and seven points from Tukiainen.
It didn't help when Cal lost sophomore Alexis Gray-Lawson, who went down with a sprained left knee with over two minutes left in the first half. Gray-Lawson, who finished with six points, didn't return in the second and was on crutches after the game.
With Gray-Lawson out, Cal lost a long-distance threat -- the guard was 10-for-15 in 3-point shooting over the past four games and had two Sunday before going down with the injury.
The sophomore, who had 22 points in a win over USC on Friday night, will be reevaluated when the team heads home.
Tukiainen surpassed her previous best, a 21-point performance against Arizona on Feb.12, when she scored on a layup with 1:25 remaining.
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