"It was important to set the tone," Gottlieb said. "UCLA is talented, they're tough, they're aggressive and they're physical. That's what they do, they overpower people. We thought it was important from the beginning to send a message, that's not going to happen tonight."
UCLA pulled to 11-10 after an outside shot by Kacy Swain, but the Bruins' poor shooting in the first half cost them. UCLA shot only 29 percent (9 for 31) in the opening 20 minutes.
Alyssia Brewer and Markel Walker, two of the Bruins' top three scorers averaging a combined 22.7 points per game, went scoreless in the first half, shooting a combined 0 for 7 from the field. Nyingifa's 10 points led the Bruins at the half.
"We said in the locker room, we have to punch first," Close said. "When you start that slow and that flat, it is really hard to get revved back up."
The Bears had balanced scoring in the opening half as all eight who played scored at least two points. Brandon led the way with 10 points and Gray had eight.
Cal finished the first half strong. After the Bruins pulled to 20-16 with 7:01 to play, the Bears got hot, taking their biggest lead of the half at 37-18 lead on a 3-pointer by Mikayla Lyles with 52 seconds until the break.
Brandon's outside jumper at the buzzer gave the Bears a 39-21 lead at the half.