BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Ashley Walker scored 23 points, including a crucial shot in the lane with 34 seconds left, to lead California (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today; No. 21 AP) past Oregon State 63-57 Thursday night.
Walker was 11-of-12 from the field for the Bears (14-4, 5-3 Pac-10) and she also blocked Judie Lomax's shot with 10 seconds remaining to help Cal hold off the Beavers (7-9, 2-5). Oregon State fought back from a 15-point deficit with 10:54 left to get within two down the stretch.
Casey Nash, the Pac-10's leading scorer, topped Oregon State with 18 points before fouling out with 3:14 left. She scored 10 points during the Beavers' run that cut a 47-32 Cal lead to 54-52, a spurt that began when Walker went to the bench with four fouls.
Jontelle Smith scored 15 points for OSU and Lomax had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Walker, with seven rebounds, and 6-foot-3 Devanei Hampton, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, helped Cal outscore the Beavers 38-26 in the paint. The Bears also outrebounded Oregon State 39-28.
Equally important, however, was the steady play of freshman point guard Natasha Vital, who finished with 12 points -- eight in the final 10 minutes -- and six assists.
The undermanned Bears used only six players, five of them freshmen and sophomores and the other a junior. In addition, Cal was without both starting guards -- Alexis Gray-Lawson (out for the season with a torn ACL) and Keanna Levy (concussion, day-to-day) -- and as a result, the Bears started three freshmen and two sophomores.
Oregon State is equally young, with only two seniors on the roster and usually three freshmen on the floor.
Perhaps that youth explained the back-and-forth nature of the early going. Cal jumped ahead 7-0, only to have the Beavers counter with eight points of their own. The Bears then outscored Oregon State 15-2, and carried a 30-20 lead into the locker room.