BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Stanford regained its familiar spot at the top of the Pac-10 by the slimmest of margins.
The seventh-ranked Cardinal overcame a horrid shooting performance by star guard Candice Wiggins and three missed front ends of one-and-ones in the final minute to hold off No. 8 California 60-58 on Saturday to take control of the Pac-10 race.
"I have so much confidence in my teammates. They showed that even if I was struggling they were all there to pick me up," Wiggins said. "Obviously I was struggling and it was hard and it was frustrating. But this team stays together and when someone is down the other four or other 10 people are picking up that person."
With the win, Stanford (25-3, 14-2) moved into a tie for first place with the Golden Bears (23-4, 14-2) in the conference with two games remaining. If the Cardinal win at Washington and Washington State next weekend, they are assured of the top seed in the Pac-10 tournament by sweeping Cal of the season series and their eighth straight conference title.
Jayne Appel scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half and JJ Hones also scored 16, hitting two 3-pointers after Wiggins went to the bench with four fouls midway through the second half for the Cardinal.
"At halftime Jayne came out of hibernation and went to work," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "She really took over the game for us. I'm really proud of how well she played. That was our focus, get Jayne the ball. She delivered. She got an earful at halftime, took it in and stepped it up. I thought that was the whole difference in the second half."
Wiggins missed 14 of her first 16 shots before stealing the ball from Devanei Hampton and scoring on an uncontested layup that gave the Cardinal the lead for good at 58-56 with 2:47 to go. She hit a pullup jumper to give Stanford a four-point lead and the Cardinal hung on from there.
"I think the game was all that it was billed to be," VanDerveer said. "To me it was like a heavyweight fight. Sometimes it wasn't really pretty but it was very competitively played."
The Bears had their chances late after Hones missed a front end of a one-and-one at Stanford up 60-58. But Lauren Greif missed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left. Kayla Pedersen missed another front end before Appel blocked Alexis Gray-Lawson's shot with 8 seconds left.
Rosalyn Gold-Onwude missed the third front end, but Gray-Lawson hit the front rim on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Gray-Lawson slumped over in frustration as Stanford celebrated the escape at midcourt.
"We came up short," Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. "But this program is young, we're going places and we're going to continue going places. It hurts right now. It's supposed to hurt. We have to let this go and finish the season out the way we know we can finish it out."
For a moment, it looked like Cal was ready to dethrone the champions in front of a nearly packed house of 10,525 -- the biggest crowd ever to see a Pac-10 conference game.
Cal went on a 10-0 run midway through the second half, keyed by Greif's bank shot as she fell to the ground. The spurt started with Wiggins on the bench with four fouls and ended with a basket by Gray-Lawson that made it 56-53 with less than 5 minutes remaining.
Appel tied it with a three-point play and then Wiggins delivered her clutch shots. Wiggins finished with 13 points on 4-for-19 shooting and moved within 37 points of breaking Lisa Leslie's Pac-10 career record of 2,414 points.
Hampton led Cal with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Ashley Walker added 17 points and 14 rebounds. The Bears, who have never won the Pac-10, can still share the regular season title by sweeping in Washington next weekend.
Then they could get another chance against Stanford the following week in the conference tournament and have the NCAA tournament coming after that.
"It's March basketball at the end of February," Walker said. "It will do wonders for us. We're two top teams in the country and the conference. We still have more Pac-10 basketball to play. It's not over yet. This is just the beginning of our next season."