With 7:22 remaining in the game, the No. 7 Cal women’s basketball team found themselves in trouble. After a UCLA layup trimmed the Bears’ lead to four, the crowd at Haas Pavilion was growing restless and Cal was waiting for someone to step up.
Luckily for the Bears, senior Layshia Clarendon single-handedly ended the Bears’ slide.
In a span of two minutes, Clarendon drained a three pointer, assisted on two field goals and stole a UCLA inbound pass that led to free throws.
“I was telling the team we need a spark, we were getting in a lull,” Clarendon said. ”It was spark and it came from me this time.”
The Bears (15-2, 5-1 in the Pac-12) were back up by 12 and were comfortably on their way to a 70-65 victory Sunday afternoon against the No. 14 Bruins.
“This game speaks to the fact that we are a top level basketball team,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “If we focus on what’s right in front of us, we can beat anybody, but we have to have a respect level that conference games are hard every single night.”
The game was aggressive from the tip, with many players being fouled hard or ending up on the floor going for a rebound. Eventually, however, UCLA (13-4, 4-2) began to falter under the Bears’ aggressive play, committing three unforced turnovers and shooting a measly 33.3 percent from the field in the first 10 minutes.
“The athleticism and quickness of Cal rattled us early,” said UCLA coach Cori Close.
The Bears had a 9-2 run for four minutes from the 13-minute mark, capped off by an impressive left handed layup by guard Brittany Boyd. Cal’s lead ballooned to 12 at 24-12, bringing the home crowd to its feet and forcing Close to call a timeout.
UCLA finally figured out a way to slow down the Bears’ offense by encouraging Cal shooters to take three pointers and double-teaming the post players. The Bruins cut the lead to four after a three-pointer with only 4:56 remaining in the half, prompting Gottlieb to call for time.
“We recovered and started to force them to shoot the shots we wanted them to shoot,” Close said.
Cal went into halftime with a 40-33 lead, but the two teams were evenly matched across the board. The Bears held only a slim advantage in shooting percentage and rebounds and were tied with the the Bruins in turnovers at five.
Both teams came out cold from the locker rooms, with only four field goals made in the first six minutes of the second half.
By the 7:22 mark, UCLA cut the lead to four at 54-50, the closest it had been since early in the first half. At that time, Clarendon took over at the and put the game out of reach. Although the Bruins made it interesting down the stretch, the Cal advantage was too much to overcome.
Center Talia Caldwell cashed in a double-double with 14 points and a career high 11 rebounds in the 70-65 victory. But Clarendon was the key piece of the significant conference win, scoring 22 points to go with 6 assists.
“Clarendon is as solid as a rock,” Close said. “She really was the difference.”
Austin Crochetiere covers women’s basketball. Contact him at email@example.com