Game Notes: Cal at USC
Who goes on a 25-0 run? The Trojans do.
USC doesn’t have much to play for. But something is better than nothing.
Self-imposed sanctions following the whole OJ Mayo fiasco a couple years ago ruined any hopes the Trojans might have had at making a run during postseason play in March. That’s right, no NCAA Tournament for the Cardinal and Gold this time around.
Nevertheless, the Trojans fight on. They play for pride and the chance to win a Pac-10 Conference title, an achievement, that if reached, would provide a small measure of satisfaction in a season where making an appearance in the Big Dance isn’t an option.
With their eyes on the prize, the Trojans took a step in the right direction Thursday night despite the efforts of Cal’s Jerome Randle, who nearly played the role of spoiler.
USC scored 25 consecutive points during one stretch, eventually rallying for a 66-63 victory over the visiting Golden Bears. The loss knocked Cal into a four-way tie for first place in the standings and moved the Trojans within a game of the top spot.
*** Speaking from experience, the Galen Center is a great place to watch a game. The funny thing is, no one in Los Angeles ever comes out to this joint to check things out. Who knows, with Cal in town, maybe things will be different.
*** Sure enough, this place is packed. Correction: There are twice as many fans here tonight than there was in attendance for last month’s Tennessee game when the Trojans upset the Vols, the nation’s ninth-ranked team at the time. The student section is buzzing with excitement. The crowd will play a role in this one. Hope the Golden Bears are prepared for the barrage of random comments and chants from the USC faithful.
*** Cal has this kid on its team, Max Zhang, who comes from China and is 7-3. He doesn’t play much, but hopefully, he’ll get some run against the Trojans. Would love to see if he has any skills. Or, at the very least, love to see him get posterized.
*** It appears as if this could be a big night for Dwight Lewis. The senior is set to become the all-time leader in games played for USC, with 125, passing the mark set by former point guard Brandon Granville from 1999-2002.
*** The Golden Bears have three players, Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson, that could potentiallyplay in the NBA. Each has caught the eyes of scouts at the next level and it’ll be interesting to see who one ends up in the League.
*** Christopher is hot early on. He converts a layup, knocks down a three-pointer and hits a jumper to give the Golden Bears an 18-14 lead at 11:11
*** Lewis answers. His shot from way downtown falls to keep things close. USC trails by a basket as we approach the midway point, 10:46, of things here.
*** Randle gets involved. A pair of free-throws and a pair of three-pointers extends the lead to 30-17 with 6:38. Perhaps more importantly, the crowd is relatively quiets, and if Cal can keep the noise to a minimum, that’ll help in the long run.
*** Zhang attacks the basket. Marcus Johnson attacks Zhang. And believe it or not, the 6-6 senior for USC wins, blocking the big man’s shot. This could be the spark the Trojans have been searching for because their play has been lackluster thus far. Truly poor, no exxageration.
*** Lewis steps to the line and makes two free-throws. Marcus Simmons adds one of his own from the stripe, and then, finds Nikola Vucevic for a layup to cut the deficit down to five points with less than a minute before the break.
*** A layup from Lewis before the buzzer helps USC end things on a 10-0 run. The Golden Bears are up 30-27 at intermission. The Trojans, however, have plenty of momentum and it will be interesting to see if they can sustain it.
*** Here we go people. Lewis for three. Simmons buries a jumper. Vucevic with a tip-in.
*** All of sudden, USC leads, 34-30, with 17:58 left. About 45 minutes ago, if you would have told me that we’d have ourselves a ballgame, I would’ve said that you’re crazy. Cal was dominating USC. Things have certainly changed. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
*** Mike Montgomery is thoroughly disgusted. The Cal coach promptly calls a timeout in an attempt to regroup his players on the sidelines.
*** Mike Gerrity follows with a three-pointer and Johnson scores five straight points. The Trojans are up 12 points at 16:25. What a turnaround.
*** Randle restores some order. The 25-0 spurt by USC ends after he connects on a pair of three-pointers and a jumper. Cal trails 45-38 at 13:38.
*** Jorge Gutierrez comes off the bench for the Golden Bears and scores five consecutive points. Cal is down three points at 9:21.
*** Alex Stepheson flexes his muscle underneath the basket. He makes two buckets and a free-throw for the Trojans, who lead 54-53 with 4:08 remaining. This is shaping up to be one of those barn-burners down the stretch.
*** The Golden Bears refuse to go down without a fair fight. They did, after all, enter the game atop the conference. Robertson’s layup gives Cal a one-point advantage at 2:23.
*** Gerrity is a gamer. He’s clutch, burying a pair of three-pointers. The Trojans are back on top, 62-57, with less than a minute left.
*** Vucevic is pretty good in his own right. Four straight free-throws puts Cal in an uncompressing position. The Golden Bears trail by three points and there‘s not much time left on the clock. Three seconds, to be exact.
*** One last chance. This is it. Randle gets the ball, of course, and launches a half-court shot. No good. The Trojans win, 66-63.
*** Randle did his best to keep Cal close throughout. He finished with 29 points, including six three-pointers. His final shot, however, missed the mark. Ultimately, that proved to be the difference. “If he had made that, we would have been on SportsCenter,” USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said.
*** O’Neill’s counterpart, Montgomery, was dumbfounded afterward. Surprised he was willing to talk to the media. When asked about the Trojans’ scoring spree, he responded with: “Well, it’s like a broken record. The same old thing, but I don’t remember a team going on a 25-0 run on us ever.”
*** Gerrity managed one basket in the first half. And best believe that he heard about it from several Cal players. Everyone was talking trash. To his credit, Gerrity, scored 10 points after the break, highlighted by a trio of three-pointers. “Gerrity’s late three’s were huge,” O‘Neill said. “They’re over there saying he doesn’t hit 3′s. He played like a senior point guard tonight.”