Challenged by Saint Mary's to win from the perimeter on Thursday, the Cal women's basketball team had little trouble rising to the occasion.

With the Gaels employing a zone that the Bears didn't necessarily expect, Cal shot the lights out in the first half en route to a 65-55 win at McKeon Pavilion.

Layshia Clarendon led the early long-distance barrage, knocking down three early 3-pointers to help Cal jump out to a 38-24 halftime lead. The Bears made eight of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half.

"(Saint Mary's) is a team that plays 100 percent man to man defense," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "They came out in a zone and we looked poised and confident and our shooters knocked down shots to get them out of the zone."

Saint Mary's (5-4) got a little closer midway through the second half. A 3-pointer by Morgan Hatten cut the lead to single digits, and a putback by Jackie Nared made it 44-37 Cal with 11:57 left to play.

That caused Gottlieb to call time out, and the Bears responded. Quick buckets from Gennifer Brandon and Justine Hartman pushed the lead back to double digits, and a transition layup by Berkeley High grad Brittany Boyd capped an 11-2 run that put Cal (7-2) back in control with a 55-39 lead.

"At that point they were getting comfortable with a little bit of a screening action we hadn't seen, so we went to some zone just to get them out of rhythm," Gottlieb said.

"I just told our players that we need to refocus, no one's going to give us anything. We need to be a little tougher, we need to make plays starting on the defensive end and I thought they responded really well to that."

The Gaels had stretches where they looked fluid in transition, but others where turnovers became a big issue. Both teams turned it over 18 times, and the Bears made the most of their opportunities to pull ahead.

"We could not guard them inside," said Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas of the team's zone strategy. "They're physical and strong and can jump and they're very, very good. We have young kids, freshmen and sophomores who are trying to do that. I'm super proud of the team for the effort they gave."

Nared led the way for Saint Mary's offensively, scoring a game-high 17 points. The Gaels were hindered a bit offensively by the absence of starting guard Kate Gaze, who was out with a leg injury. Jasmine Smith added 12 in the loss.

Boyd led the Bears (7-2) with 15 points, six assists and three steals. Clarendon finished with 14 and Afure Jemerigbe added 11. Cal hosts another West Coast Conference foe, Santa Clara, on Saturday at 2 p.m.

"This is one where we're certainly happy to get the win, get our stuff, go home and take away from it what we can," Gottlieb said.