Over the last couple of years, the California Golden Bears have missed out on opportunities to give their NCAA tournament resume a boost against non-conference opponents.
Last season, they suffered a 3 point loss to Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ, a 1 point loss to Texas at the Rainbow Wahine Showdown and a 2 point loss to Ohio State at home before starting their Pac-12 schedule. In the 2010-11 season, losses at New Mexico - in double overtime - and Texas A&M on the road and Texas Tech at home cost them opportunities to prove that they could compete with quality programs outside of the Pac-12. In the 2009-10 season - the year they found themselves on the NCAA tournament bubble before winning the WNIT - the non-conference loss to San Jose State at home was like the pin waiting to burst their tournament bubble all season.
It's within that context that Cal's win over the Georgetown Hoyas yesterday is so significant, as described by Layshia Clarendon - who was one of that talented freshman class that suffered the loss to San Jose State in 2009 - in a recap by Viet Nguyen of BearInsider.
But before setting off on their trip, Cal will first relish their hard-earned victory against a good opponent.
"I think it just speaks to how much we have grown and how we are shooting to an elite team," said Clarendon. "These are the kinds of games that separate us. Last year with the Ohio State and Stanford games that we lost, the big games that we could have won and would have put us over the edge, but now I think these are the kinds of games that are going to separate us and make you elite."
But Cal's work doesn't end at handling a tournament team at home to stay undefeated - next up is a string of four road games, including one against Duke.