This game was a much needed win for the California Golden Bears. Coming off two straight losses (and only two victories in the last seven), the Bears needed a win tonight, despite still being very shorthanded. Even with the worst cumulative record in the conference, the USC Trojans are a better team than what their record would indicate (the Trojans were also coming off a victory on Thursday over Stanfurd). After a tight first half (where the biggest lead was only 4) that saw the Bears up 3, an early Cal run pushed the lead to 8. The Trojans would not go away, however, and they fought back to tie things up at 45 with 11+ minutes to go. For the first time this season, the Bears were able to execute better than their opponent down the stretch in a close game. With long 3 pointers by Tyrone Wallace and a momentum changing block from Justin Cobbs, the Bears managed to make Galen Center a Bear Territory. Here is the gameflow for this one:
Allen Crabbe lead all scorers with 27 points, 19 of them coming in the second half. Again going away from settling for long jump shots, Crabbe had an efficient scoring night attacking the basket, going 9 for 12 from the field and 8 for 8 from the free throw line.
Justin Cobbs had another tough night shooting, making only 2 of his 7 attempts from the field to finish with 10 points (helped out by going 6 for 6 from the Free Throw line, especially in the closing minutes). Cobbs did have what is probably the play of the game with 3:28 left in the game. Freshman Tyrone Wallace had a bad turnover with the Bears up merely 4. Just when it look like USC's Chass Bryan was going to get an uncontested layup to cut the lead to 2, Justin Cobbs covered a lot of ground and made an incredible block that kept the 4 point lead intact.
Tyrone Wallace played the role of the second scorer for the Bears tonight, getting 10 points total, including two big three pointers late. More importantly, he looked much more comfortable with the ball tonight. Wallace also used his athleticism to get a team high 2 steals.
Yes, the Bears have finally broken their 3 point shooting draught, which had started to look like something mental. Jeff Powers, of all people, was the guy who broke the streak (22 straight misses dating back to 6 minutes left in the PVAMU game that took place before Christmas). Powers actually made 2 3 pointers (out of 2 attempts) for the Bears in the first half, including one with an assist from Bak Bak (the streak breaking one was assisted by Wallace).
With Brandon Smith (concussion) and Ricky Kreklow (foot) both being unavailable, Bak Bak made a strong contribution in his 7 minute of floor time in the first half. Despite some defensive lapses, Bak finished with 2 points, 2 boards, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
Against USC's pair of 7+ foot giants, 7' 2" Omar Oraby and the 7' 0" Dewayne Dedmon, Robert Thurman played almost as many minutes (18) as Richard Solomon (19). Thurman had a team high 8 boards while David Kravish finished with 7 boards. Despite the size disadvantage, the Bears out rebounded USC by a large margin in the first half and finished the game with more boards (USC closed the gap with a bunch of offensive boards in a few possessions).
Kudos to all the Cal fans that took over Galen Center. The Cal crowd was loud and their presence was obvious in the TV telecast. At least on Saturday night, LA is Bear Territory!
USC's scoring was led by Eric Wise's 14 and Byron Wesley's 13. Despite quite a few easy layups allowed (and allowing USC to win the scoring in the paint margin 36 to 22) due to some bad transition defense at times, the Bears still managed to hold the USC offense to 41% shooting from the field. The Bears, helped out by going 5 of 8 from beyond the 3 point line, finished with 48% field goal percentage.
Here is how the graphical box score for the Bears:
Crabbe compared Tyrone Wallace's late 3 pointers to that made by Shabazz Muhammad.
Coach Montgomery said that "we need this one badly" and maybe it's on him that he didn't trust Bak or Thurman enough to use a deeper rotation.
Wallace gave credit to the important contributions today from Jeff Powers and Bak Bak.
What's next: The Bears return home to entertain the Washington schools next week. Washington will first visit Haas on Wednesday (on ESPN2), follow by Wazzu on Saturday. Maybe Brandon Smith would be sufficiently recovered from his concussion to give the Bears some much needed depth at the guard position.