BERKELEY (AP) - California senior Afure Jemerigbe shared a brief, special moment with her best friend of over 10 years following the ninth-ranked Golden Bears 70-58 loss to No. 2 Duke on Sunday.
That would be Blue Devils' two-time All-America guard Chelsea Gray, who scored 22 points.
"I just told her I loved her, that she had a good game and we'd talk later," said Jemerigbe, who led Cal with 16 points. "She's the same player she was in high school with no-look passes and being fancy. She can do it all."
Jemerigbe, one of three returning starters from last year's Final Four team, the first in school history, is just as excited about her own team.
"Just the experience of playing against a top team with a new group; it's a learning lesson," she said. "We talked before the game about having no regrets and laying it all out there. We're always going to play hard whether we are ahead by a few points or behind by a lot."
Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said she felt better about they way her team played Sunday than after beating Long Beach State on Friday night.
"We need to grow," Gottlieb said. "We're not as game ready as we were at this point last year because of youth and players in new roles. This exposed us in ways we can get better. This was a chance to see the highest level and to understand we can play like that."
The Golden Bears had a rough day shooting the ball, making just over 32 percent of their shots. A lot of that had to do with Duke's defense.
"Their match up zone is bothersome," Gottlieb said. "It is disturbing because it is long and big."
The game served as a reminder that the Bears still have work to do if they have designs on returning to the Final Four.
"We may not be successful in the short term but this will help in the long term," Gottlieb said. "It was great for the freshmen."
Rookie Courtney Range showed no fear in hitting the boards against a much taller, more aggressive Duke team. She had 10 rebounds for the contest. The Blue Devils outrebounded Cal, 46-39.
The Bears were within nine with 7:09 remaining to play after watching Duke build a 15-point edge. Less than 3 minutes later, the Blue Devils were up by 17.
Duke recovered from an early deficit to open a 12-point advantage midway through the first half. The Bears scored nine straight points to draw to 24-23, though that was as close as they would come.
"They were more aggressive to the ball than we were," Gottlieb said. "Offensive rebounds killed us. They have a lot of veterans who make plays."