Updated at: 02/28/2013 10:38 PM
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
(AP) PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State put together a strong first half against No. 6 California, but the Cougars lost their shooting touch and the game in the second half.
Layshia Clarendon scored 26 points as Cal beat Washington State 73-60 on Thursday night.
"I thought we competed very, very hard," Washington State coach June Daugherty said. "Our offense did some good things."
Washington State stayed even with the Golden Bears in the first, even leading 35-33 with two minutes left, before Cal sank three late 3-pointers to take a 42-35 halftime lead.
But in the second half, Washington State’s shooting percentage fell from 50 percent to 30 percent, and Cal pulled away.
With No. 4 Stanford due in town on Saturday, WSU will have finished the regular season by playing three ranked teams in four games.
Meanwhile, California is one win away from claiming at least a share of its first Pac-12 championship, and Clarendon has her eye on the prize.
"We want to win the championship," said Clarendon. "We are one game away from it."
Afure Jemerigbe added 14 points for California (26-2, 16-1), which has won 14 straight games.
The win allowed Cal to set a program record for conference wins in a season, and to at least keep pace with No. 4 Stanford, which played Thursday at Washington. The victory left Cal one shy of the team record of 27 wins in a season set by the 2008 and 2009 squads.
Team records are important, but primarily in the context of a league title, Clarendon said.
The Golden Bears’ chance to sew the title up comes Saturday when they play at Washington.
Freshman Lia Galdeira scored 18 points to lead Washington State (10-18, 6-11) which has lost four straight games. Mariah Cooks added 10.
Cal held a 42-35 halftime lead after a close first half.
"We’re kind of being hunted right now by people who are out to ruin our season," Clarendon said. "Everybody comes out swinging."
Washington State scored the first two baskets of the second half, then Cal went on a 12-2 run, five points by Clarendon, to take a 54-41 lead.
Mikayla Lyles sank a pair of 3-pointers to push the Cal lead to 62-45.
Washington State scored the next seven points to cut Cal’s lead to 62-52. But Cal replied with a 9-1 run and the lead was back to 71-53 with 2:30 left.
Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb switched her defense around in the second half.
"We changed up how we were playing ball screens," Gottlieb said. "I thought we were better in transition defense."
For the game, Cal shot 44 percent and made 11 of 19 3-pointers. Washington State shot just 39 percent and made 5 of 16 3-pointers. Cal won the rebound battle 44-31.
Clarendon made 10 of 18 field goals in the game, including four 3-pointers. She added five assists.
"My shots have been falling pretty well the last few games," the Naismith Award candidate said.
In the first, a pair of 3-pointers by Jemerigbe gave Cal an early 11-5 lead.
Galdeira’s 3-pointer gave WSU its first lead at 20-19 as the Cougars made eight of their first 12 shots.
The teams traded baskets and the lead several times. Clarendon sank a pair of 3-pointers as Cal took a 33-31 lead with 3:23 left in the first. Cooks replied with a 3 to put Washington State back on top.
But Cal closed the first half with three unanswered 3-pointers _ two by Jemerigbe sandwiched around one by Clarendon _ to take a 42-35 halftime lead. Clarendon had 18 points and four assists in the first half. Cal made 50 percent of its shots and sank 7 of 12 3-pointers. Washington State also shot 50 percent in the first.
"We had a great game against the No. 6 team in the country," Daugherty said. "Cal shot the 3 very, very well tonight."
Daugherty said the turning point in the game came early in the second half, when Cal got numerous possessions on its end of the court thanks to offensive rebounds and built a lead the Cougars could not overcome.
"They showed their experience and poise," Daugherty said.
At the same time, the Cougars started relying too much on Galdeira and Cooks.
"We got caught standing and watching them too much," Daugherty said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)