Two-time All-America guard Chelsea Gray was pleasantly surprised. Her repaired kneecap felt better than expected in her first game back from the injury.
Gray, who had surgery in March after dislocating her right kneecap in February, had 22 points, five assists and a couple of steals in 31 minutes to lead No. 2 Duke past No. 9 California 70-58 on Sunday.
"It's a little sore," she said. "A little icing and I'll be ready to go again."
Gray was playing in front of friends and family. She hosted a dinner for her teammates Friday night in Manteca, about an hour's drive from Cal.
Gray had a complaint, though: "No leftovers. I was hoping to bring some back with me to eat later but, nope, they ate all our food."
The Blue Devils also practiced at St. Mary's High in Stockton, Gray's former school.
"It was so much fun," Duke coach Joanne McCallie said. "It was like a retreat at Chelsea's house. I didn't think we were ever going to leave."
Tricia Liston added 15 points for the Blue Devils, who opened the season against a ranked opponent for the first time in school history. Richa Jackson had 13 on 6-of-7 shooting.
"I was proud of the gritty effort," McCallie said. "The first game is always interesting. It's a process and not outcome-driven. The only way to get better is to be put in tough situations."
Afure Jemerigbe, Gray's best friend and teammate at St. Mary's, scored 16 points to lead the Golden Bears (1-1), who had won 15 straight regular-season games. Brittany Boyd scored seven of her 13 points in the final 3 minutes. Reshanda Gray added 10.
"We need to grow," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "We're not as game-ready as we were at this point last year because of youth and players in new roles. This exposed us in ways we can get better. This was a chance to see the highest level and to understand we can play like that."
California lost for only the second time in a home nonconference game under Gottlieb, who led the Golden Bears to their first Pac-12 Conference title and first Final Four last season.
The Bears were within nine with 7:09 remaining after watching Duke build a 15-point edge. Less than 3 minutes later, the Blue Devils were up by 17.
Liston and Jackson had plenty to do with the scoring spree.
"I wanted to stay attacking and get to the basket," Liston said.
Jackson's 3-pointer with 5:47 remaining gave Duke its biggest lead of the game at 17.
Duke recovered from an early deficit to open a 12-point advantage midway through the first half. The Bears scored nine straight points to draw to 24-23, though that was as close as they got.
Jackson hit a short jumper with just more than a minute to play to put the Blue Devils ahead by five at halftime.
"They have so many good players and she'll come in and shoot the ball," Gottlieb said. "She knows her role and she does it well."
The Blue Devils outrebounded California 46-39, including 18-16 on the offensive boards. Elizabeth Williams had 11 boards for Duke, and Cal freshman Courtney Range grabbed 10.
"They were more aggressive to the ball than we were," Gottlieb said. "Off rebounds killed us. They have a lot of veterans who make plays."
Duke freshman Oderah Chidom, who grew up 10 minutes from the Cal campus, played 7 minutes in her debut.