SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — No wakeup call needed for California. No matter what time of the day, the Golden Bears can rebound and do it with tenacity. They can also turn up the defense, as they did Sunday in beating Iowa in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
"It might have been our most complete game from start to finish," coach Lindsay Gottlieb said after Cal built a big lead and fought off a late rally for an 84-74 win over the Hawkeyes.
"The game plan was to put on a ton of ball pressure because I don't think they've faced a team like us and that can be destructive."
The result was 18 turnovers by Iowa.
Playing a noon game in the Eastern time zone — which would have felt like 9 a.m. — the Golden Bears built a 16-point lead in the second half after overcoming some initial jitters since no member of their current roster had ever played in the NCAA tournament.
"I was really nervous, if you couldn't tell at the beginning of the game. I just wanted to come into the game and in the NCAA tournament you're one and done. I couldn't have this be 'Oh, it was her first tournament game and she blew it,'" Cal's freshman point guard Brittany Boyd said.
Layshia Clarendon scored 16 points and hit a pair of free throws with 41 seconds left for Cal (25-9), which allowed its lead to dwindle to six when Iowa's Kamille Wahlin and Kelly Krei hit late 3-pointers.
Boyd, who missed five free throws, added 15 points, eight assists and six steals for Cal, which had a 41-29 rebounding edge, including 19-7 on the offensive boards.
"California could write a textbook on how to rebound. They are exceptional at maintaining that persistence for the basketball," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
"There were so many times where they would not have possession of the ball but they would tip it up in the air and keep going for it."
The Hawkeyes were playing their first game since March 2 when they lost in the Big Ten tournament, and Bluder didn't blame rust for the ball-handling mistakes.
"I don't think the press was where we had the turnovers. I felt we had more turnovers on passing decisions, people were in the passing lanes and forcing things there," Bluder said. "Those are the ones that concern me the most because those are the ones we should not be making this time of year."
Wahlin led No. 9 seed Iowa (19-12) with 15 points. Krei, Theaiurra Taylor and Morgan Johnson finished with 14 points each and Samantha Logic scored 11 and had 11 assists.
"They were very physical with their athleticism and their strength. They were pushing and I was pushing back. It was definitely a physical game," said Johnson, the Hawkeyes' 6-5 center.
Reshanda Gray had 14 points, and Gennifer Brandon and Talia Caldwell 11 each in Cal's balanced attack.
"We're just so versatile like coach was saying. We have so many weapons," Clarendon said. "It's kind of just like, 'Who's going to score today?' Take your pick."
Boyd banked in a 3-pointer with just over 6 minutes left to make it 69-54 before Iowa went on its late spree, getting to within 78-71 with 1:33 left on a 7-0 spurt capped by Wahlin's 3-pointer.
But after a missed free throw, Cal got yet another offensive rebound and Clarendon made two from the line with 1:23 remaining. Krei then sank a 3-pointer and the lead was down to six with 1:13 to go before the Golden Bears wrapped it up at the line.
Clarendon hit a pair of jumpers late in the first half, the second with two seconds remaining, as Cal went up 42-33. The Golden Bears scored 16 points off nine first-half turnovers.
Brandon worked inside for six straight early points for the Golden Bears in the second half, and they expanded their lead to 13. And with freshman Boyd leading the defense, the Golden Bears went up 62-46 as Clarendon took a long pass for a layup.
Iowa showed little signs of the 16-day layoff in the early going. The Hawkeyes made eight of their first 12 shots.