California women hold off No. 14 UCLA
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Laysia Clarendon remembers the days when California wasn't much more than an afterthought in the Pac-12.
It was only two years ago.
Now the seventh-ranked Golden Bears are sitting atop the conference standings with a share of first place following their third win over a Top 25 team in the past two weeks.
"It's one of those moments where you sit back and (realize) it's all paid off," said Clarendon after scoring 22 points in Cal's 70-65 win over No. 14 UCLA on Sunday afternoon. "Just to see where we are, I'm grateful and thankful. We've been kind of bringing this program along ... and it means a lot."
It wasn't that long ago when the Bears struggled just to break even in the Pac-12. But in two years under coach Lindsay Gottlieb, Cal has blossomed into a legitimate contender.
After finishing second to cross-bay rival Stanford in 2012, the Bears are off to their best start since 2008-09 and picking up steam.
"I think this team is hungry to not just be good but be great and be championship caliber," Gottlieb said. "It doesn't get any easier. But I do think it speaks to the fact that we're a legitimate top-level basketball team."
Talia Caldwell added 14 points and 11 rebounds while Gennifer Brandon also had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds for Cal (15-2, 5-1).
Three days after topping conference-leading USC, the Bears led nearly the entire game but had to hold off a late charge by the Bruins to move atop the Pac-12 standings.
It's the latest milestone for Gottlieb's team. In the past two weeks Cal has beaten No. 21 Colorado and split a pair of games with No. 6 Stanford.
The win over UCLA helped break a four-way tie for first in the Pac-12. Stanford and USC play later Sunday, with the winner joining the Bears in first.
It didn't come easily.
Cal twice blew double-digit leads in the second half and was held without a basket over the final four minutes, allowing the Bruins to make one final push.
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