California beats UCLA 85-72 in Pac-10 semifinals
LOS ANGELES (AP)—California came out rushing against a UCLA team eager to keep its slim NCAA tournament hopes alive. Once the Golden Bears settled down, the Bruins were quickly sent packing for the season.
Jerome Randle scored 24 points and Theo Robertson had 15 of his 20 in the second half when Cal dominated on its way to an 85-72 victory Friday night in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals.
“In the second half, we threw the first punch,” Randle said. “We were able to sustain the lead.”
The top-seeded Golden Bears (23-9) advanced to Saturday’s title game, where they’ll play No. 3 Washington (23-9), a 79-64 winner over Stanford.
Patrick Christopher added 16 points for the Bears, seeking their first league tournament title to go with their first outright regular-season championship in 50 years.
Michael Roll scored a career-high 27 points in his final game for fifth-seeded UCLA (14-18), which ended the season with its worst record since 2003-04, coach Ben Howland’s first in Westwood.
“To have a losing record is very, very disappointing with the success we’ve enjoyed the previous five seasons,” said Howland, whose tenure includes three consecutive Final Four appearances. “The key to it all is recruiting. We have three players that are coming in, and I’m going out to recruit at least a couple more. That’s the key.”
Jerime Anderson added 15. Freshman Reeves Nelson, who powered UCLA to a quarterfinal upset of Arizona, finished with eight points.
“I don’t care about the career high or anything like that,” Roll said. “It’s just unfortunate that we lost and I’m done.”
Cal made 13-of-14 free throws over the final 5:13, with Randle hitting all six of his attempts.
Randle, the Pac-10 player of the year, surpassed 2001 player of the year Sean Lampley as Cal’s career scoring leader with 1,790 points.
“Sean can stop biting his nails,” Randle said. “He’s been calling me and asking when I’m going to do it and I said, `Be patient.’ It’s good I can do that and still win.”
The Bears came out playing defense in the second half, keeping UCLA scoreless on its first three possessions while taking their first lead, 40-39, on a 3-pointer by Robertson.
Robertson, Cal’s career 3-point shooting leader, hit three long-range baskets in the first eight minutes of the second half, when the Bears led 52-44. They shot 71 percent over the final 20 minutes, while limiting the Bruins to 38 percent.
“Everything I got was the product of us playing good defense and getting out on the break,” Robertson said.
UCLA was outscored 17-5 in that stretch and dissolved in a sequence of errors, including an airball and missed 3-pointer by Nikola Dragovic, Malcolm Lee missing an open pass underneath the basket, and a shot clock violation.
“We tried to get inside a little more. We had a couple turnovers,” Roll said. “They came out trying to apply more pressure to me, trying to stop me from getting the ball because obviously I had a good first half.”
The Bruins got no closer than seven points over the final six minutes.
They opened the game on a 20-10 run. Roll scored 10 points in the run, including his three-point play that ended the spurt during which they shot 61 percent. He went over 1,000 career points in his final game, finishing with 1,008.
“UCLA came out with a real passion. We knew they’d be fired up,” Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. “This was their opportunity to go to the NCAA tournament. It took us a while to adjust. We got more aggressive.”
Randle got Cal back into the game, scoring nine points in a 14-5 burst that drew the Bears within one.
Anderson sparked the Bruins the rest of the half, scoring all seven of his points in a 14-11 run that kept them ahead 39-35 at the break. UCLA got key defensive stops in that stretch, too.