BERKELEY Layshia Clarendon remembers when Cal was an afterthought in the Pacific-12 Conference women's basketball race.
That was only three years ago.
Now the seventh-ranked Bears share first place with Stanford after their third win over a Top 25 team in two weeks.
"It's one of those moments where you sit back and (realize) it's all paid off," Clarendon said Sunday after scoring 22 points in Cal's 70-65 victory over No. 14 UCLA. "Just to see where we are, I'm grateful and thankful."
In two seasons under coach Lindsay Gottlieb, Cal has blossomed into a legitimate contender. After finishing second to Stanford last season, the Bears (15-2, 5-1) are off to their best start since 2008-09.
"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."
Cal survived against UCLA (13-4, 4-2), blowing two double-digit leads in the second half and failing to make a basket in the last four minutes. Clarendon made four free throws in the last minute to seal the win.
No. 6 Stanford 75, USC 66 in Stanford Chiney Ogwumike scored 23 of her 29 points in the second half and grabbed 16 rebounds as the Cardinal (16-2, 5-1 Pac-12) withstood the Trojans (7-10, 4-2).
Sara James (Oak Ridge High School) scored 13 for Stanford, which saw a 19-point second-half lead shrink to five with 2:28 left.
No. 2 Indiana 67, Northwestern 59 in Evanston, Ill. The Hoosiers led by 17 in the first half and held on after the Wildcats closed the gap thanks to a 1-3-1 trap defense in the second half.
With Indiana (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten Conference) rushing shots against the trap, Northwestern (11-8, 2-4) closed within five three times. But the Hoosiers made 7 of 8 free throws in the last 57 seconds to prevail.
Indiana's Cody Zeller had 21 points and 13 rebounds.
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