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Cal defense dominates Cougars

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Washington State thought that this season’s Pac-10 tournament might turn out differently than the previous three.

Head coach Sherri Murrell’s team had shown significant improvement over the course of the season and had reason to believe that it would show when the Cougars took on California in the first round of the conference gathering at the HP Pavilion. But in this case, progress did not end up translating into a victory as the Golden Bears pulled away late to a 70-52 win that ended the Cougar season.

Cal moves on to play Stanford, the second-ranked team in the country and the top seed in the Pac-10.

“I’m very disappointed,” Murrell said. “I felt our kids were confident and they’ve been playing so well all year long in the sense that they’ve just really hung in there and played some great teams really close.”

This represented the first time WSU (6-22) wasn’t the last-place team in the tournament, but being one spot above the cellar this season didn’t help the Cougars score their first Pac-10 tournament victory. They are still the only team in the league yet to win a game in the tournament, currently in its fourth year.

But Murrell was rewarded for the progress she has made with the program, getting a contract extension from WSU and athletic director Jim Sterk through the 2010 season earlier in the day.

Murrell’s compensation package remains unchanged from her first five-year deal, which started in 2002-03 at $130,000 with gradual increases built in.

WSU’s leading scorers struggled badly against the Golden Bears. Kate Benz, the Pac-10’s leading rebounder, had seven, but as the team’s leading scorer she didn’t get on the scoreboard until hitting a layup with 11:28 left to play. And Adriane Ferguson, WSU’s second-leading scorer and best perimeter threat, didn’t score until 36 seconds after that. They ended up combining for just 11 points.

Guard Charmaine Jones had success getting to the basket with Benz and Ferguson having an off night and scored a team-high 12 points. Junior center Keisha Moore, playing in her first Pac-10 tournament after transferring from Idaho, added 11 points.

“They just had a really active defense. They pretty much knew everything we were going to do,” Benz said. “I don’t feel this game they singled myself or Adriane out. They just played the defense they had in their game plan and it worked.”

Ferguson’s first points, a 3 from the corner, brought the Cougars within five points. But they scored just one point in a span covering nearly six minutes thereafter as Cal put the game away.

On the other end of the floor, Cal point guard Kristin Iwanaga and forward Leigh Gregory each had 16 points to lead all scorers. The Golden Bears (11-17) made up for poor shooting early by going 17 of 20 from the line. Cal also finished 7 of 14 from 3-point range.

“In the second half, we just got tired and didn’t execute our game plan,” Murrell said. “The scoring drought just took a toll on us. It’s really hard to dig in for that long of a time when you just can’t put that ball in the hole.”

California 70, Washington St. 52

Washington State (6-22)–Benz 2-8 0-0 4, Moore 5-10 1-2 11, Perry 4-10 0-0 9, Jones 3-10 5-6 12, Ferguson 3-10 0-0 7, Scales 1-5 1-2 4, Singer 1-4 0-0 3, Joneby 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-59 7-10 52.

California (11-17)–Gregory 6-9 3-4 16, Lawson 3-9 6-6 12, Williams 1-4 0-0 2, Pool 1-4 1-1 3, Iwanaga 4-10 5-6 16, Foster 0-1 0-0 0, Sanchez 2-3 2-3 7, Wright 4-7 0-0 10, Coakley 1-1 0-0 2, Levy 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 22-48 19-22 70.

Halftime—California 29-28. 3-Point Goals—Washington St. 5-18 (Perry 1-2, Scales 1-2, Jones 1-4, Singer 1-4, Ferguson 1-5, Benz 0-1), California 7-14 (Iwanaga 3-6, Wright 2-4, Gregory 1-1, Sanchez 1-2, Williams 0-1), Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Washington St. 32 (Moore 9), California 37 (Williams 9). Assists—Washington St. 12 (Jones 5), California 15 (Pool 8). Total Fouls—Washington St. 13, California 16. A—3,067.

Washington 81, Oregon St 68

Kristen O’Neill matched her career high with four 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead Washington to a first-round win over Oregon State.

Cameo Hicks added 10 points as the seventh-seeded Huskies (14-15) won their fifth in the last six games. Shannon Howell scored 25 points for the Beavers (6-23), who lost their eighth straight and 13 of 14. Kim Butler added 15.

Washington, trying to avoid just their second losing season in June Daughterty’s nine years, meet No. 2 seed Oregon in today’s quarterfinals.

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