It wasn't just No. 7 Cal that shook up West Coast women's college basketball last week. Saint Mary's College enjoyed a breakthrough victory as well.

Together, the Bears and Gaels signaled a potential changing of the guard in the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference, where the Stanford and Gonzaga women have long been in charge.

The landscape feels a little different after Cal snapped Stanford's 81-game conference win streak with a decisive 67-55 victory at Maples Pavilion and Saint Mary's knocked off the eight-time defending WCC champion Bulldogs 54-51 in Moraga.

Still, Gaels coach Paul Thomas chuckled a bit when asked recently about his team's rivalry with Gonzaga.

"If you count the last four games, then it's a rivalry," said Thomas, whose team beat the Zags last season in Spokane, Wash. "If you count it the last 20 games, there's not much of a rivalry."

That's because Gonzaga had won 19 of the previous 20 encounters, including eight in a row at Moraga. Just as Stanford had beaten Cal's women 10 straight times, most recently on Jan. 8 at Cal, 62-53.

"I think it's a hurdle for everyone in the league to have success against Gonzaga," Thomas said.

The barrier was more like the Great Wall of China for Stanford's rivals in the Pac-12.

Certainly there is a lot of basketball to be played. UCLA and USC, each 4-0 in the Pac-12, visit the Bay Area this week. The Gaels play Thursday against a San Diego team that beat them by margins of 17 and 15 points last season.


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But for all the road left to travel, Thomas sees a difference with his team.

"The attitude here is changing," he said. "You see it in practice when they're concentrating for longer periods of time. That's when it all began."

The Gaels (11-4, 3-0 WCC) were toughened by a nonconference schedule that included four Pac-12 opponents. They beat Oregon and felt like they let victories slip away vs. Washington and UCLA.

Cal was a different story. "It was a 30-point game before we even got on the court," Thomas said of the 89-41 loss at Cal.

While the Gaels quickly moved past that outcome to better things, Thomas said he was convinced right then how good Cal (13-2, 3-1 Pac-12) could be.

"If they can find a rhythm shooting, they can get to the Final Four. They can do anything," he said. "They rebound better than any team out there. Quickness? Oh my goodness. They're phenomenal, all A-list players."

They merely needed to clear a big hurdle. Just as the Gaels did.

  • Santa Clara senior guard Kevin Foster last week became the WCC's career leader in 3-point field goals with 366. The NCAA record of 457, set by Duke's J.J. Redick in 2009, seems out of reach.

    But Foster is on pace to become just the 11th Division I player to reach 400 3-pointers for his career. Among others who have done it: Warriors star Stephen Curry, who made 414 during his four seasons at Davidson.

    Foster has averaged 3.24 3-pointers per game over his career, 3.06 this season. Using either number, he projects to becoming the first player from anywhere on the West Coast to make more than 400 for his career.

  • Cal coach Mike Montgomery, asked if he expects senior guard Brandon Smith to play Saturday at Stanford, said, "Yes I do, but I've been fooled before."

    Smith, who has missed the past five games with a concussion, underwent further tests Tuesday. "We're hoping he gets the green light," Montgomery said.

    Sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow (foot) will remain sidelined.

  • The Stanford men (10-7, 1-3), who were picked fourth in the Pac-12 preseason poll, are off to an unusually slow start.

    The Cardinal won more games than it lost in the early weeks of league play the past three seasons, only to squander the momentum each time. Last year, for example, Stanford won five of its first six, then went 5-7 the rest of the way.

    Given that pattern, coach Johnny Dawkins' team could finish much closer to last place than first this season if it doesn't get hot quickly.

  • The Cal-Stanford men's game Saturday, being broadcast by FSN, will be shown locally on KICU-36. Tipoff is 1:30 p.m.

    Staff writer Jon Wilner contributed to this report. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.