No. 6 California 73, Washington St. 60

No. 6 California is one win away from claiming at least a share
of its first Pac-12 championship, and Layshia Clarendon has her eye
on the prize.

”We want to win the championship,” said Clarendon, who scored
26 points as Cal beat Washington State 73-60 on Thursday night.
”We are one game away from it.”

Afure Jemerigbe added 14 points for California (26-2, 16-1),
which has won 14 straight games.

The win allowed Cal to set a program record for conference wins
in a season, and to at least keep pace with No. 4 Stanford, which
played Thursday at Washington. The victory left Cal one shy of the
team record of 27 wins in a season set by the 2008 and 2009
squads.

Team records are important, but primarily in the context of a
league title, Clarendon said.

The Golden Bears’ chance to sew the title up comes Saturday when
they play at Washington.

Freshman Lia Galdeira scored 18 points to lead Washington State
(10-18, 6-11) which has lost four straight games. Mariah Cooks
added 10.

Cal held a 42-35 halftime lead after a close first half.

”We’re kind of being hunted right now by people who are out to
ruin our season,” Clarendon said. ”Everybody comes out
swinging.”

Washington State scored the first two baskets of the second
half, then Cal went on a 12-2 run, five points by Clarendon, to
take a 54-41 lead.

Mikayla Lyles sank a pair of 3-pointers to push the Cal lead to
62-45.

Washington State scored the next seven points to cut Cal’s lead
to 62-52. But Cal replied with a 9-1 run and the lead was back to
71-53 with 2:30 left.

Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb switched her defense around in the
second half.

”We changed up how we were playing ball screens,” Gottlieb
said. ”I thought we were better in transition defense.”

Cal shot 44 percent and made 11 of 19 3-pointers. Washington
State shot just 39 percent and made 5 of 16 3-pointers. Cal won the
rebound battle 44-31.

Clarendon made 10 of 18 field goals in the game, including four
3-pointers. She added five assists.

”My shots have been falling pretty well the last few games,”
the Naismith Award candidate said.

In the first, a pair of 3-pointers by Jemerigbe gave Cal an
early 11-5 lead.

Galdeira’s 3-pointer gave WSU its first lead at 20-19 as the
Cougars made eight of their first 12 shots.

The teams traded baskets and the lead several times. Clarendon
sank a pair of 3-pointers as Cal took a 33-31 lead with 3:23 left
in the first. Cooks replied with a 3 to put Washington State back
on top.

But Cal closed the first half with three unanswered 3-pointers –
two by Jemerigbe sandwiched around one by Clarendon – to take a
42-35 halftime lead. Clarendon had 18 points and four assists in
the first half. Cal made 50 percent of its shots and sank 7 of 12
3-pointers. Washington State also shot 50 percent in the first.

”We had a great game against the No. 6 team in the country,”
Washington State coach June Daugherty said. ”Cal shot the 3 very,
very well tonight.”

Daugherty said the turning point in the game came early in the
second half, when Cal got numerous possessions on its end of the
court thanks to offensive rebounds and built a lead the Cougars
could not overcome.

”They showed their experience and poise,” Daugherty said.

At the same time, the Cougars started relying too much on
Galdeira and Cooks.

”We got caught standing and watching them too much,” Daugherty
said.