BERKELEY -- On the same afternoon that Cal celebrated its recent trip to the Final Four, the Bears learned some valuable lessons that they hope will take them back to women's college basketball's biggest stage.
Before a 70-58 loss Sunday to second-ranked Duke in front of 10,771 fans at Haas Pavilion, the No. 9 Bears unveiled a banner to commemorate last season's magical run.
But Duke (1-0), powered by five returning starters from its Elite Eight team, stole the show from there, charging ahead to lead by double digits for most of the second half.
"It was a chance for us to see the highest level and see that we can play with that, but we have to be a little sharper collectively," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "It was invaluable for our freshmen. ... Technically we need to get better at certain things, but I'm confident we will."
The Blue Devils leaned on point guard Chelsea Gray, who finished with 22 points in her first game back from a dislocated kneecap that kept her out of the postseason last spring.
Gray, a former state player of the year out of St. Mary's High in Stockton, also had five assists in her Northern California homecoming.
Afure Jemerigbe scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Cal (1-1), which is playing with three new starters in the early part of this season as star forward Gennifer Brandon slowly returns from offseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in her leg.
Brandon didn't score and pulled down two rebounds in her nine minutes on the court.
Jemerigbe spent some time guarding Gray, her best friend from high school and former teammate at St. Mary's. The duo earned McDonald's All-America honors while leading St. Mary's to a state championship as high school seniors.
"She's the same player as she was in high school -- fancy, no-look passes, all that good stuff," Jemerigbe said of Gray. "She can do it all."
Cal freshman Courtney Range, another product of St. Mary's High, came off the bench to pull down a team-high 10 rebounds.
Duke threatened to run away with the game early, taking a 24-12 lead as the Bears battled foul trouble to starting guards Brittany Boyd and Mercedes Jefflo.
But Cal responded with some hot outside shooting, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Mikayla Lyles and Boyd as part of an 11-0 run that got the Bears within 24-23.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Duke quickly pushed its 30-25 halftime lead back to double digits, leading by as many as 17 points.
The Bears mounted a bit of a comeback as Boyd scored six straight points to get Cal within 68-57 with 2:32 left, but that's as close as it would get.
Boyd finished with 13 points and six assists. Slowing her down was a focal point for Duke after she torched them for a career-high 28 points in last year's meeting, a 77-63 Duke win.
"That's definitely something we remembered," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Behind Elizabeth Williams (11 rebounds), Duke beat Cal on the boards 46-39. For Gottlieb, whose team is known for its rebounding prowess, that was a key statistic in the game.
"This exposed us in ways that we can and will get better," Gottlieb said. "We need to grow. We're not as game-ready as we were at this point last year because of youth and new people in new roles."
Cal (1-1) at George Washington (1-0), 4 p.m.
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