No. 6 California 91, Arizona 86
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)
Talia Caldwell scanned the scoresheet following her fourth double-double of the season and discovered something that really surprised California's senior center.
''You know what's my favorite stat? I had three assists,'' she said after getting a career-high 20 points and 12 rebounds as the sixth-ranked Golden Bears beat Arizona 91-86 on Sunday.
Caldwell could afford to feel good about her modest season-high assists total.
After averaging just five points through the first nine Pac-12 games, she's scored 48 in her past three and given Cal's interior game a much-needed spark while helping the Bears stay atop the conference standings.
Gennifer Brandon also had a double-double, Layshia Clarendon added 20 points despite a hip pointer in the first half. Afure Jemerigbe scored 11 for Cal (21-2, 11-1).
The Bears, bidding for their first Pac-12 title, extended their longest winning streak in four years to nine games after holding off a late rally by the Wildcats.
Arizona (11-11, 3-8) cut a 12-point lead to 90-86 with 24 seconds remaining following Kama Griffits' fifth 3-pointer of the game. But Brandon made one free throw then Cal forced an airball by Griffits from beyond the arc.
''Credit Arizona because I think it would have been easy for them to come in here and lay down when we got a lead,'' Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. ''They certainly didn't do that. We had some missed rotations, they broke the press and got some open looks. We need to just lock in and guard the ball better.''
Caldwell was especially pivotal in helping Cal win its 13th straight game against Arizona. She scored seven consecutive points for the Bears during one stretch in the second half and also made a wraparound pass to Clarendon for an easy layup.
It's the third consecutive game Caldwell has scored 14 or more points after reaching double digits just once in her previous nine.
''It's cool when you see your hard work pay off,'' said Caldwell, who shot 7-for-9 from the floor. ''It's really cooler getting those wins. I knew I would break open.''
Davellyn Whyte had a season-high 26 points, seven rebounds and eight assists for Arizona. The Wildcats (11-11, 3-8) committed 21 turnovers and had no answer for Caldwell and Brandon.
Brandon had 22 points and 14 rebounds for her third consecutive double-double and seventh in the last eight games.
Cal needed every bit of it.
The Bears missed 18 free throws, shot just 26.3 percent from beyond the arc and didn't secure the win until Griffits' airball with 6.8 seconds remaining.
Griffits finished with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting, but Arizona lost its seventh straight and remained winless in this series since 2005.
Cal's nine-game winning streak is its longest since a 12-game run in 2008-09.
Brandon had 15 points in the first half but the Bears struggled at the free throw line, allowing the Wildcats to trim a 10-point lead to 41-37 following Alli Gloyd's layup with 1:31 remaining.
Clarendon, Cal's leading scorer who played all 40 minutes in the Bears win over Arizona State on Friday, drew a hard foul by Erica Barnes moments earlier.
Clarendon slowly walked off the court holding her left side after Gloyd's basket. She was taken to the locker room before the break and returned to the bench early in the second half.
Being without its top player didn't seem to slow down Cal much.
Brandon scored from inside the key and Jemerigbe followed with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Bears a 46-37 halftime lead.
The Wildcats made a run in the second half when the Bears went cold, pulling within 53-49 following a pair of free throws by Erica Barnes.
Clarendon snapped Cal out of its funk with a 3-pointer, then later made back-to-back 15-footers during a 12-2 run when the Bears pulled away.
Gloyd and Barnes finished with 14 points apiece for Arizona.