for this game

No. 17 Cal holds on to beat Saint Mary's

Nov 18, 2009 - 5:42 AM By JANIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer

BERKELEY, Calif.(AP) -- Freshman Layshia Clarendon hit a go-ahead jumper with 48 seconds left and a free throw with 7 seconds remaining and No. 17 California overcame a cold shooting night to beat Saint Mary's 68-65 on Tuesday for its fifth straight win in the series.

Tifa Puletasi missed a 3-pointer from the top of the arc as the buzzer sounded for Saint Mary's, which was trying to beat a ranked team for the first time since Nov. 17, 2000, a 74-63 win over Stanford.

It was far from a pretty tuneup for the Golden Bears (2-0) before Sunday's highly anticipated showdown with No. 8 Baylor at Haas Pavilion - 11 months after these teams were supposed to play. The Baylor team couldn't make it to the Bay Area last December because of weather.

Natasha Vital had 17 points, six rebounds and three steals to lead Cal and freshmen DeNesha Stallworth and Talia Caldwell each added 10 points and eight rebounds. Clarendon finished with 11 points.

"We'll take it any way we can get it. It's not pretty," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "Throughout the game we were rattled and had a lack of poise. With a young team, we have to get better at that."

Kate Gaze hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Saint Mary's ahead 64-59 with 4:30 left before Cal rallied. Gaze finished with 10 points but also six of her team's 24 turnovers. Katie Batlin led the Gaels (1-1) with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.

"That was fun," Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas said. "First thing I said when walked into locker room was, 'That was a fun game.' There was coaching going on. There was playing going on."

Alexis Gray-Lawson made two free throws with 2:20 left to give Cal the lead, then Jontelle Smith's free throw with 1:53 to play tied the game at 65.

It was quite a change from the tough night Saint Mary's endured the last time it played in Berkeley. Gray-Lawson scored 15 of her 19 points during a 35-1 second-half run in the Bears' 85-44 victory, including scoring eight straight during one stretch.

Cal knows it will have to be better come Sunday.

Baylor beat Tennessee Tech 100-55 behind 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks from freshman phenom Brittney Griner, who missed her only dunk attempt.

"We're going to have to be a step above where we were tonight to have a chance," Boyle said.

Louella Tomlinson, coming off a triple double in the Gaels' opener, had eight points and five rebounds before fouling out with 2:20 remaining. Having her on the bench hurt Saint Mary's.

The Gaels' crisp ball movement kept the Bears off balance much of the game and created open looks on the perimeter, but the turnovers cost them too many chances.

"We were more than in it. We were winning," Thomas said. "Our kids feel that way. We were winning and they felt they had control of the game even up until the very end, and you have a couple of unfortunate things happen."

Gray-Lawson shot 3-for-14 for Cal, which opened the season with a 100-43 rout of Idaho State on Sunday but never looked in sync. The Bears missed all seven of their 3-point tries Tuesday and shot 36.5 percent overall.

Cal's tallest player, 6-foot-5 Rama N'diaye, is still recovering from an arthroscopic cleanup procedure on her troublesome right knee before the season. N'diaye missed much of last season following reconstructive surgery on the same knee after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament during Cal's 2008 first-round NCAA tournament victory against San Diego.

But the Bears have been able to better handle her absence with much more depth this season than they had last year.