BERKELEY -- Stanford's 82-game home win streak ended emphatically last month against Connecticut. Now the fifth-ranked Cardinal women risk their 80-game conference streak Tuesday night when facing hard-charging California in a Pac-12 basketball showdown at Haas Pavilion.

The league's premier teams also play at 1 p.m. Sunday at Maples Pavilion in what amounts to a home-and-home series that could go a long way in determining the outcome of the regular-season championship.

Stanford's last league defeat came Jan. 18, 2009 in a 57-54 decision at Cal. Stanford has won nine in a row against Bears and 41 of the past 44 games since the 1993-94 season. But seventh-ranked Cal has a six-game win streak while enjoying its best start in program history.

The Bears (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12) have their best chance in years to handle Stanford, which is seeking its 13th consecutive regular-season league title.

The games this week feature some intriguing statistical matchups: Cal has the Pac-12's top-scoring offense whereas Stanford (13-1, 2-0) is the league's best defense. The Bears are the best rebounding team, followed by the Cardinal.

But it is the style matchups that pique the interest of Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb.

"It is interesting to see whether we can control the tempo and push and play in transition like we like to," she said Monday. "More than ever before in this Battle of the Bay, it is about us playing Cal basketball well versus reacting to Stanford."


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The Cardinal rebounded nicely from its 61-35 defeat to UConn with impressive victories last weekend at No. 20 Colorado and Utah. Cal also won twice on the road but had a tougher time in the Rockies.

Despite the strong Pac-12 start Stanford dropped from fourth to fifth in the polls because of Notre Dame's upset victory over previously No. 1 Connecticut.

"I feel playing UConn is a win-win for us and it showed this weekend," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We have to keep UConn in the rearview mirror. We're not staring at it driving down the road."

The contest Sunday at Maples Pavilion is the start of five consecutive home games against some of the Pac-12's best teams, including No. 14 UCLA, No. 23 Colorado and Utah. After Sunday, Cal will play four in a row at home, also facing the same three schools.

VanDerveer doesn't mind the tough early schedule, particularly when facing Stanford's cross-bay rival.

"I like the fact that we play them early," she said of the Bears. "The sooner we figure out who can help us and what we need to do the better" the longer the team has to develop its strengths.

Gottlieb knows where to start: junior forward Chiney Ogwumike leads the league in scoring (21.3 points per game) and is second in rebounding (12.2 rpg).

"With Chiney being a double-double machine we can't let her get anything easy," the Cal coach said.

The Bears' theme this week is to disrupt the Cardinal's comfort zone.

"When Stanford looks like a mosaic out there doing what they want to do, they are as good as anybody," Gottlieb added.

The Cardinal got a lift Sunday when junior guard Sara James had career highs of 18 points, six field goals, four assists and 31 minutes against Utah. Her performance was needed after starting guard Toni Kokenis was limited because of an undisclosed medical condition that has bothered her this season.

VanDerveer said Monday that Kokenis "doesn't feel well" but would not elaborate. A school spokesman said at the start of the season that Kokenis' availability would be game to game. She averages 22.9 minutes per game while starting 11 times. The junior guard also averages 8.0 points per game.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.