As of late, the Cal women’s basketball team has played a slow first half, only to overwhelm its opponents after halftime.
But this Sunday in Durham, N.C., the Blue Devils (6-0) made sure that the Bears didn’t get the chance.
No. 10 Cal lost decisively in Cameron Indoor Stadium, 77-63, to No. 4 Duke. It was their first loss of the season in this battle of elite, undefeated teams.
Cal (6-1) tried to buck their first half woes by keeping pace with the Blue Devils. Up to the 17:26 mark, the Bears were tied 6-6, and at the 13 minute mark, held a 13-10 lead.
Senior team captain Layshia Clarendon led the charge, giving the Bears a three-point lead at the 15:29 and 14:04 mark. In the span, she notched seven points and three rebounds — including two offensive boards in one series.
After seven minutes, though, Duke took back the house.
It started with a jumper by Duke center Allison Vernerey, who was strong off the bench with six points and seven boards. The Blue Devils turned up the heat to go on a 12-0 run from the 14:04 to 8:31 mark.
On the defensive side, the Blue Devils quickly switched out of their own press defense to zone. They sealed off the paint and forced the Bears to rely on its jumpers. With the Bears coming off a 38.3 percent shooting night against Old Dominion, Duke made the wise decision.
“We were making every shot, you’re on a high, and then you miss a couple,” Clarendon said. “It’s just a game of runs, and we lost it there for a minute.”
After nearly three consecutive turnovers at the 8:47 mark, the Bears finally scored through an Afure Jemerigbe dish to center Talia Caldwell. However, Duke soon entered a blistering 10-0 run to bloat the lead to 32-15 with 5:27 remaining.
The Blue Devils shredded Cal’s vaunted press defense, which had been so reliable for them in previous games. Unlike Cal’s past opponents, Duke had the speed and power to break past the suffocating full court defense.
“There is no question that their lengthy zone leads to their transition,” head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “When we turned it over, it was hard to stop them in transition.”
With the Bears only scoring five more points, they entered halftime at 34-20. Cal started quickly in the second half, scoring four quick points from Clarendon and point guard Brittany Boyd, but Duke broke off another run for nine unanswered points for the 43-24 lead.
Boyd was the only highlight for the Bears in this game. The sophomore guard, who had been dormant on 2-11 shooting for five points in the first half, exploded for 23 points on 9-12 shooting in the second.
“I was looking for my teammates, but usually I don’t get that a lot and it’s easier for me to dump it off,” Boyd said. “I was just taking what they gave to me.”
The Bears matched the Blue Devils with 34 points each, but it was too little, too late in the 77-63 victory.
“With a team like Duke, you can’t put yourself in that kind of hole because they are that good,” Gottlieb said. “We’ll take a lot away from this game.”
Vincent Tzeng covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]