LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — With no seniors and nine freshmen and sophomores on his roster, Louisville coach Jeff Walz knew the start of the season could get bumpy.
Sunday's opener proved it as his No. 8 Cardinals lost 75-71 at home to California.
"You're going to see a lot of ups and downs within the same minute of the game," Walz said. "You come up with some great steals and (then) throw the ball out of bounds. It's where we are right now."
Cal (2-0) used its significant size advantage to overcome 27 turnovers and earn the upset. Louisville only managed 24 points off those takeaways and the Golden Bears outrebounded Louisville 50-27.
Briahanna Jackson led Louisville (0-1) with 21 points in her first game since transferring from Central Florida. The junior also added six steals, three assists and three rebounds.
"I think she has a chance to hopefully mold into our leader," Walz said. "I don't think anybody on our team can question that she plays harder than all of them."
Mariya Moore added 20 for Louisville and her sixth 3-pointer cut Cal's lead to 74-71 with four seconds left.
The young Cardinals are talented — their five-woman freshman class was ranked No. 1 in the country — but everyone has room to grow in the mental part of the game with two juniors as the only upperclassmen.
"We just have to play smarter," Walz said. "That is going to be our challenge to get our kids to know what they are doing."
Courtney Range and Kristine Anigwe each scored 19 points to lead Cal.
Asha Thomas hit for 4 of 6 free throws in the final 22 seconds to help seal the win. Thomas finished with 16 points, one of five Bears in double figures.
The Bears boasted five players 6-2 or taller on the court for long stretches and shot 27 of 57 (47 percent). Louisville's 42 percent from 3 (10 of 24) was better than their 41 percent from the field (29 of 70) total.
"We knew going in that it was going to be a battle height-wise," Moore said. "We could have done a better job boxing out, pushing back, but I think we were just focusing on other things and we shouldn't have been."
Louisville erased a 35-27 halftime deficit using a 9-0 run in third quarter that saw Moore hit her fourth 3 of the game and the 5-6 Jackson swatted the 6-4 Anigwe's shot from behind. Moore's fifth 3-pointer made it 46-42 with 55 seconds left in the quarter before two Cal baskets again tied the game.
Cal used offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions to score putbacks and take 65-59 lead with 2:11 to play. The Bears finished with a 17-9 edge on the offensive glass.
Louisville: The Cardinals are predicted to finish third in the ACC this season behind No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 7 Florida State.
California: The Golden Bears are predicted to finish fourth in the Pac-12 this year. ... Range scored 23 points in a season-opening 67-58 win at Austin Peay on Friday.
Sunday marked the third matchup between the teams in the last four years. They first played as part of the Cardinals' improbable run beating Baylor and Brittney Griner to reach the 2013 Final Four. Louisville's 64-57 Final Four victory over the Bears earned a spot in the national title game. The Cardinals also won 70-57 at Cal last year.
Asia Durr, the nation's top-ranked recruit and one of three McDonald's All-Americans in Louisville's freshmen class, played 23 minutes in her debut while still recovering from a groin injury. She finished 5 of 10 from the floor and had 12 points and two assists.
"I would've loved to have had about 30 (minutes), but she's just not there yet," Walz said.
Louisville: Visit Western Kentucky on Saturday.
California: Host UC-Riverside on Friday.