Christyn Williams scored 24 points and No. 5 UConn opened its season Sunday with a closer-than-expected 72-61 win over California.
Megan Walker scored 21 points pulled down 10 rebounds and Crystal Dangerfield added 14 points for the Huskies, who have not lost a season opener since 1995.
Sara Anastasieska led all scorers with 25 points and Alysia Styles added 13 for Cal (1-1) which led just once at 7-6 but stayed within striking distance of the Huskies for most of the game.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa (11 points, 13 rebounds) scored the game's first basket, but UConn made just one of its next 12 shots. Anastasieska hit a jumper to put the Bears in front, before Dangerfield's long 3-pointer gave UConn the lead for good. Dangerfield's jumper at the end of the quarter bounced high off the rim and into the basket, giving UConn a 13-10 lead after 10 minutes
Williams got going in the second quarter. The sophomore, made 10 of her 17 shots in the game, hit all four she took in that quarter, helping UConn to a 37-30 halftime lead.
The Huskies extended that to 61-47 after three quarters but were outscored by Cal 14-11 the fourth.
The Huskies hit 13 of their 21 free throws, while the Bears had just four points from the line, making all four of their foul shots.
Cal: First-year coach Charmin Smith understands her team is in a rebuilding year. The Bears lost four starters, including first-round WNBA draft pick Kristine Anigwe from last season and are picked to finished near the bottom of the Pac-12. They lost their opener at Harvard 56-53. As a player at Stanford, Smith reached three Final Fours, including in 1995, when her team lost to UConn's first national championship team 87-60.
UConn: When Napheesa Collier (20.8 points per game) and Katie Lou Samuelson (18.5) graduated to the WNBA in the spring, they took with them 47% of the Huskies offense. Auriemma said his biggest question has been who will step into the shoes of the All-Americans. That question was not answered Sunday.
Cal: The Bears head back to Berkley for their home opener on Nov. 17 against UC Riverside.
UConn: The Huskies hit the road for games on Wednesday at Vanderbilt and next Sunday at Temple.