Updated at: 01/27/2013 6:07 PM
By MICHAEL WAGAMAN
(AP) BERKELEY, Calif. - Reshanda Gray scored 19 points and sparked a big run in the second half before leaving with a left hamstring injury in No. 7 California’s 71-54 win over Utah on Sunday.
Layshia Clarendon added 23 points and Afure Jemerigbe had 10 to help the Bears to their seventh consecutive win over the Utes. The victory also assures Cal (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) of keeping at least a share of first place in the conference.
The Bears had trouble getting anything going against Utah’s tight zone defense until Gray scored 11 points as part of a 17-4 run midway through the second half. Clarendon later scored six points over the final 4 1/2 minutes to help seal the win.
Michelle Plouffe scored 19 points and Paige Crozon added 13 for Utah (10-9, 1-7).
Cal was already without forward Gennifer Brandon, who injured her right foot in Friday’s win over No. 20 Colorado. Guard Brittany Boyd also came up limping on the same play that Gray strained her hamstring on.
Gray, who also had eight rebounds, sat out the final 4:22 with an ice bag on her leg.
It didn’t matter.
Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb used a four-guard lineup and went to a full-court press midway late in the second half that gave the Utes fits. Utah committed 21 turnovers, including six in seven possessions after Cal made the defensive switch.
The win leaves Gottlieb two shy of 100 for her career.
Both teams were missing key players.
Utah played without second-leading scorer Taryn Wicijowski who injured her right knee while attempting a layup in the first half of Friday’s loss to Stanford. She’s scheduled to undergo an MRI in Salt Lake City on Monday.
Brandon’s absence was even more noticeable.
Cal had trouble getting much going inside against Utah’s compact triangle-and-two defense and was forced to settle for mid-range shots until Gray took over with 13 minutes left.
She had 11 points as part of a 17-4 run midway through the second half when the Bears took control Gray scored on a layup with 6:23 remaining to put Cal up 60-48 then limped off the court less than 2 minutes later.
The Utes, who haven’t defeated the Bears since 1988, stayed close in the first half despite another strong game from Clarendon.
Clarendon had four points during a 13-3 run midway through the first half then later made a 3-pointer that gave Cal a 32-23 lead with 1:03 left. That put Clarendon over 1,500 points for her career.
Crozon cut the gap to 32-28 at halftime with two free throws and a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. Utah’s freshman guard didn’t miss in the first half, making all four shots from the floor _ including 3-for-3 on 3s _ and had 13 points before the break.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)