As the Bruins filed off the floor of Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif. on Sunday, the pain of leaving the Bay Area empty-handed began to sink in.
“When you put your heart out on the line, it hurts when you don’t accomplish what you set out to do,” said coach Cori Close.
It hurt when California grinded out a 70-65 win over No. 19 UCLA (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) on Sunday, in part because of the Bruins’ own miscues.
And it hurt when No. 6 Stanford (16-2, 5-1) rolled over UCLA, 75-49, on Friday, etching a fine line between a good team and an elite team.
“But at the same time, what hurts more is regret. … And so I told them … the end result is not as important to me … as leaving it all out there, playing with your whole heart and having no regrets. I don’t think we have regrets,” Close said.
“(But) there are things that we need to learn from. (And) there are things that need to grow that got exposed.”
UCLA spotted No. 7 Cal (15-2, 5-1) an early 12-point lead, and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to climb out of that hole.
The Bruins cut that deficit to four points twice late in the second half.
But UCLA’s mental lapses, many of them more suited for the Pac-12’s bottom dwellers than the then-No. 14 ranked team, sank their rally.
Senior forward/guard Markel Walker overthrew a pass inside by a couple feet in transition, wasting an opportunity created by forcing a Cal turnover.
Senior forward Alyssia Brewer and her teammates failed to secure a routine defensive rebound on a missed Cal free throw down the stretch.
“But that’s the problem right there. We’re doing things well for a majority of the time, and when you play good teams, that little time that you’re not doing it, you’re submerged,” said junior guard Thea Lemberger.
“So that hurt us down the stretch.”
Against Stanford, poor offensive execution sealed UCLA’s fate.
The Bruins blew open layups and had a pair of traveling violations early. Their stagnant half-court ball movement left them settling for contested shot attempts often.
“We got to learn what it means to have great ball movement so we can create easier shots. I think that’s the thing we can take away,” Close said.
About 15 minutes in, Stanford had already doubled UCLA’s field goal percentage: 56 percent compared to 28 percent.
From there, the Cardinal, winners of 81 of their last 82 conference matchups going into Friday, turned the game into a laugher.
“(These games) mean a lot. We don’t just want to win the games, we’re supposed to win conference. We really felt like we could beat both Stanford and Cal, and to come up here (where) we played hard, but to not come up with the wins was disappointing,” Lemberger said.
It meant so much to the Bruins that the team held a players-only meeting following their loss to Stanford to try and regroup.
Despite the letdown, senior guard Mariah Williams found the silver lining in a tough weekend.
“They were important in a sense that they’re big games,” Williams said.
“But they’re not everything in the sense that we’re going to learn from these games … and these losses will make us better for it.”