It’s an upset in name only. Washington State has been doing this all season.
The seventh-seeded Cougars used their potent offense and risk-taking defense to upset No. 2 seed California 91-83 in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals Friday at KeyArena.
Cal, No. 20, is the fourth ranked team WSU has defeated this season.
Washington State advances to the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, against third-seeded Oregon State. It’s WSU’s second trip to the tournament semifinals.
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“We just want to keep it going,” WSU coach June Daugherty said. “However you want to coin the phrase, we want to keep winning and playing for a long time in March.”
WSU was close to defeating Cal in both regular-season games. The second was an overtime loss in Oakland last week. When the Pac-12 tournament bracket was announced Sunday, the Cougars hoped for a third matchup.
“We felt like we let it get away,” Daugherty said. “That’s what has kind of fueled these guys the past week getting ready for the tournament.”
Cal pulled to 63-59 with 11:47 left when Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb began to run short on options. All-Pac-12 post player Reshanda Gray collected her fourth foul. All-Pac-12 guard Brittany Boyd fouled out. Cal had only one timeout left, and WSU revved up the crowd with a 13-2 run to take a 76-61 lead with 8:23 to play.
The Bears closed to within six points late in the game. Tia Presley, who is playing in her first conference tournament due to previous injuries, nailed the final dagger, a three-pointer with 1:25 left as the shot-clock horn sounded.
KeyArena erupted as Daugherty pumped her fist on the sideline.
Sophomore guard Lia Galdeira led the Cougars with 28 points, making 13 of 16 from the free-throw line, including the final two to close out the win. Presley scored 19 points.
“They picked us apart on the wing pick-and-roll and they do a good job of using those perimeter, face-up type post players,” Gottlieb said of WSU’s balanced offense. “And gave us more problems than we would have liked.”
WSU’s first wins in a Pac-12 tournament, in 2012, set up a semifinal game against Cal. In that game, Gottlieb went to a bigger lineup late in the game that provided enough blocks and buckets to carry the Bears to a win at Staples Center, the tournament’s last in Los Angeles.
The event’s move to Seattle was supposed to be an unfair advantage for Washington. Instead WSU (17-15) has made KeyArena its second home. There were many Cougar fans in attendance, and Stanford fans joined in, rooting against Cal (21-9).
Gray led the Bears with 26 points and senior Gennifer Brandon added 20 off the bench. But the California post players helped allow WSU a 26-16 advantage on second-chance points.
The Cougars shot 47 percent from the field in the game, including 9 of 18 from three-point range. WSU has scored 198 points in its two tournament wins, with Galdeira scoring 59. The tournament record for individual points is 71, held by Stanford All-American Nneka Ogwumike.
“I was just feeling it,” said Galdeira of her display of offense, favoring the pull-up three-pointer in transition. WSU led 10-0 in fast-break scoring.
“(This) feels really good,” said senior Sage Romberg, who finished with 16 points. “It shows how far this program has come since I’ve come here. It’s good to be back in the semifinals.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067
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