Bears fly too close to Sun Devils, fall 77-54

Josh Kahen/Staff

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The story of the invasion of Troy by the Greeks is not one of brute force or skill, but one of cunning. It took something special to finally breach the city’s walls after years of fruitless fighting.

Cal women’s basketball (10-18, 2-15) needed nothing less than a Trojan horse of its own to have any chance at beating No. 24 Arizona State (20-9, 10-7) in Tempe. The Sun Devils have thrived at home this season, going 12-2 at home and 5-6 on the road, so the struggling Bears needed to work some magic to topple the Sun Devils on the latter’s own turf. Alas, the Bears failed to breach the walls in what was their 15th Pac-12 loss of the year, 77-54.

Cal was sharp from the jump against Oregon State on Feb. 23. This was not the case against the Sun Devils, as the Bears finished the first quarter with 12 points. Going 0-6 from three-point range over the course of the first 10 minutes did not help their cause.

The Sun Devils, who toppled both then-No. 2 Oregon and then-No. 3 Oregon State at home earlier this season, kicked into gear in the second quarter, finishing the half on a 12-2 run where they nailed two 3-pointers in the last 28 seconds of the period. Led by senior center Jamie Ruden, ASU built on its 12-point first-half lead, outscoring the blue and gold in the second half 42-31.

One of the key differences in the first and only matchup between these two teams this season was three-point efficiency. Cal shot 25% from three on 2-8 shooting from behind the arc, while ASU hit 59% on 10-17 shooting.

The Bears’ sub-par three-point shooting was just the tip of the iceberg, though, as scoring from anywhere proved to be an issue. Senior forward Jaelyn Brown and freshman guard Cailyn Crocker, who have been the twigs propping up a faltering Cal offense over the past few weeks, both had substandard nights. Without their help, the Bears didn’t stand a chance.

Brown, who put up 17 points in her final game at Haas Pavilion on Feb. 23, finished with 9 points. Crocker, Cal’s freshman phenomenon who was averaging 19.3 points per game over the course of her last three games, led the Bears with 11 points.

ASU gave Cal lots of chances to turn the game around, as the Sun Devils turned the ball over a whopping 19 times. Despite the plentiful opportunities, the blue and gold managed just 22 points off those turnovers — a tally that left them short of victory.

A frustrating night for the Bears’ offense, however, was to be expected. The Sun Devils rank No. 4 in the Pac-12 in points per game allowed, allowing an average of 58.9.

While ASU lacks a superstar who scores upwards of 15 points on a regular basis, the Sun Devils have an arsenal of offensive weapons at their disposal. Ja’Tavia Tapley, Robbi Ryan, Reili Richardson and Ruden, the top four scorers for ASU, are all capable of scoring in double digits on any given night.

Against the Bears, it was Ruden who stepped up. In her penultimate game at Desert Financial Arena, the senior forward lead the Sun Devils in scoring with 18 points, which bested a season-high she set in early February against UCLA.

The defeat consigned the Bears to a last-place finish in conference play, as Cal is now two games behind Washington State. ASU’s victory ensured it the No. 5 seed at the Pac-12 tournament, setting up a rematch next week in Las Vegas in which the blue and gold will seek to reverse their 23-point defeat.

Before that, though, the Bears will take on No. 13 Arizona on Sunday to close out the regular season.

William Cooke covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].