Updated at: 03/09/2013 11:09 PM
By SCOTT JOHNSON
(AP) SEATTLE - No. 5 California didn’t make the most of its final tuneup before the NCAA tournament, and might have cost itself a No. 1 seed.
Markel Walker matched her season high with 23 points, Jasmine Dixon added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and UCLA advanced to its fourth Pac-12 tournament title game with a dominant 70-58 win over California on Saturday night.
Cal’s historic season hit a bump on the way to the NCAA tournament. The Bears (28-3) had their 16-game winning streak snapped because they didn’t have answer for UCLA’s zone defense.
"We didn’t see this coming," Cal’s Layshia Clarendon said after scoring 14 points on 6-for-22 shooting. "(The Bruins) were well prepared. They gave us punches in the first half. You can’t give a good team a 21-point lead; they’re just too good."
In a game that was supposed to set up a rematch with fourth-ranked Stanford in Sunday’s Pac-12 championship game, Cal trailed for all 40 minutes and trailed by at least 15 points for all but the final 24 seconds of the game.
California missed its first 13 3-point attempts total before Brittany Boyd hit with 14:45 remaining. By that point, the Bears still trailed by 21 and only got closer at the end when they finally knocked down some perimeter shots.
Boyd led the Bears with 18 points, but California shot just 29 percent.
When the Bears weren’t missing 3s they were struggling to find go-to scorer Gennifer Brandon in the lane. Brandon had just three points in the first half and didn’t score again until a layup with 3:10 remaining in the game. She finished with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting.
"They were really packed in," Boyd said. "It was hard to get our posts touches in the paint and get them into the game, and it killed our energy and killed our transition _ and we’re a transition team."
Cal swept the Bruins during a record-setting season in which the Bears won a program-best 28 games. The Bears shared regular-season Pac-12 title honors with Stanford and looked to have a legitimate shot at a top seed in the NCAA tournament if they could have beaten the Cardinal in Sunday’s final.
Cal and Stanford split during the regular season, giving each other its lone loss in conference play.
California’s poor first half featured a stretch of nine straight missed shots during an 8-minute span without a field goal while UCLA ran off 13 unanswered points. The Bears missed all 11 3-point attempts and shot just 20 percent in the first half.
"We have three losses on the entire year," Clarendon said. "This doesn’t ruin our season at all. It’s a wakeup call, if anything. It makes us more hungry."
UCLA avenged two regular-season losses to Cal, including a 28-point loss at home in mid-February. UCLA has won six straight since getting swept by the Bay Area schools. Walker made 10 of 13 shots and grabbed seven rebounds. Alyssia Brewer added 13 points, and Atonye Nyingifa scored 11 for the Bruins.
UCLA won its only Pac-12 tournament title in 2006 when it pulled off upsets of Arizona State and Stanford to win the title. This will be the Bruins’ third appearance in the title game in four years.
"This win means a lot to us because they are such a formidable opponent," UCLA coach Cori Close said. "We’ve respected them all year. They really handed it to us down at our place."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)