BERKELEY -- Playing a ranked opponent for the fifth time in six games, the Cal women's basketball team delivered again.
The No. 7 Bears were nearly derailed by early cold shooting but recovered in time to post a 59-56 victory over No. 20 Colorado in front of 1,908 fans at Haas Pavilion on Friday night.
Gennifer Brandon scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to keep the Bears tied atop the Pac-12 standings with Stanford. Her block and rebound with 20 seconds left were part of a strong defensive effort to close out the game.
"Our players on the bench kept reminding us that we are playing for a Pac-12 championship," Cal point guard Brittany Boyd said. "I think that motivated us and that gave us the extra lift."
Cal (16-2, 6-1 Pac-12) came into the contest 4-1 in games with the Pac-12's other ranked squads but needed to rally from as many as 16 points down to secure the win.
Brandon, the reigning espnW National Player of the Week, was mostly quiet in the first half but woke up after halftime to finish with her 10th double-double of the season.
Layshia Clarendon added 13 points for Cal as it was able to push the tempo and get stops with its pressure defense in the second half.
"It wasn't the prettiest, but it was a really good team win," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "In conference play when you face unbelievable teams like Colorado, to not have a loss on one of your imperfect nights says a lot about us."
Boyd, who finished with 10 points, made one her more electrifying plays down the stretch. She saved a loose ball then drove for a layup that put the Bears up 58-54 with 2:11 left.
The shooting woes started the early for the Bears, and they found themselves in an 11-point hole just eight minutes into the game. While Cal players missed shots, the Buffaloes (15-3, 4-3 Pac-12) looked comfortable on the Bears' home floor.
Eliza Pierre provided two of the Bears' early highlights, hitting 3-pointer that just beat the shot clock and again connecting from long range to pull the Bears within 32-24 at halftime.
Though they shot just 22.9 percent from the floor in the opening period, the Bears took momentum into the locker room and tied the score five minutes after the game resumed.
"I thought we came out in the second half with great energy and we still didn't necessarily make shots, but you had that feeling that we were going to fight through," Gottlieb said. "We were getting (offensive) boards, and we were chipping away."
Cal took its first lead since the early stages of the game on a layup by Brandon with about 10 minutes left.
Utah (10-8, 1-6 Pac-12) at Cal (16-2, 6-1), 2 p.m.