Dec. 17, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. - Layshia Clarendon scored nine points in the final 45 seconds to help No. 8/11 California outlast Northwestern, 71-65, Monday morning at the Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Brittany Boyd led the Bears in scoring for the third consecutive game with 18 points, and Gennifer Brandon posted her fifth double-double season of the season, but it was Clarendon's clutch free throws in the final minute that allowed the Bears to breakaway from the Wildcats. The senior hit 7-of-8 and scored nine of her 11 points in the climactic finish to make the Bears just the sixth squad in program history to begin a season 8-1.
Cal will get their shot at matching the best start for the program - 9-1 - when No. 19 Kansas visits Haas Pavilion Friday night in the Bears' first game at home in nearly a month.
Talia Caldwell had a season-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with six rebounds, and Brandon finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"I told the team in the locker room that this is a game we can learn a lot from, and a game they can take a lot from," California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "That's nice to do in a win. I really credit Northwestern coming off some injuries and rough games. Their spirit was up, they executed and the crowd was phenomenal. Their marketing department that brought all of those kids did a great job. I couldn't hear myself think. They could barely hear me in the timeouts, but this is exactly why you schedule these games - to be on the road in a tournament like atmosphere and have to respond to adversity."
The Golden Bears were forced to weather early foul trouble after getting into the bonus just 4:15 into the game at a Welsh-Ryan Arena filled with 4,598 kids on Field Trip Day at Northwestern. Using that early momentum, the Wildcats were able to push out to an early 12-5 lead over the Bears.
Midway through the half, Caldwell proceeded to score nine consecutive points for the Bears to give California a 20-16 lead with 8:29 remaining to ignite the Cal fans in attendance. The Wildcats then began to lean on Danielle Diamant - in her first game back from injury - to put them back on even footing before a point-guard battle between Boyd and Northwestern's Karly Roser ended the half.
The teams were tied at 26-26 entering the final media timeout of the period before the two points guards took over for their respective teams. Roser scored Northwestern's final six points of the half, and Boyd scored five of Cal's final seven as the Bears went into the break with a 33-32 advantage.
Boyd continued her scoring to start the second half with Cal's first five points, but foul trouble again hit the Bears as Northwestern reclaimed the lead early in the period. The teams continued to jockey for the lead throughout the half with the tournament-like atmosphere proving electric in the arena.
"The adversity hit in a lot of ways," Gottlieb said. "Early on we missed some good looks. It was tough to get separation when you don't make shots. The officiating obviously was something we're not used to. We're used to playing very aggressively, and they called it tight. I thought we ultimately responded to that. Also the fact that Northwestern played so well. Those are the things that we can be happy that we were able to respond, and also look at the film and see what we can get better at."
After a Caldwell steal and fast break layup put the Bears ahead 59-56, Cal was forced to play the final 2:22 without their leading scorer on the day and point guard after Boyd was called for her fifth foul of the game. Two Northwestern free throws were followed by three consecutive points from Caldwell to push the Bears ahead 62-58 with 1:16 remaining.
Alternating free throw attempts for both teams put California ahead, 66-63, to set up the climactic finish.
Cal returns home this weekend when the No. 19 Kansas Jayhawks visit Haas Pavilion for a Friday night special. Tip-off between the Bears and Jayhawks is scheduled for 7 p.m.