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Cal 77, USC 64 - Strong finish by the Bears to avoid another embarrassing loss to USC

The "4th quarter" was ours.

Cobbs and Kravish got plenty to be happy about, avoiding another loss to USC.
Cobbs and Kravish got plenty to be happy about, avoiding another loss to USC.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Not losing to USC again was huge for the Cal Bears (18-9, 9-5 in the Pac-12) today. Coach Mike Montgomery knew as much when he said in the post game interview, "It was a win we had to have. We would have been very disappointed if we didn't. We're not into quality points. We're just trying to win games. We're tied for third. Right now we're in about as good of shape as we can be in." Indeed, another "bad loss" in the eyes of the NCAA committee would probably needed another win over Arizona to offset. Now the Bears have a little bit more breathing room with regards to their tournament chances going into the last four games of the regular season

A 22-8 run in the last 8 minutes of an otherwise close game gave the Bears this much needed victory over USC (10-17, 1-13 in the Pac-12). Justin Cobbs led the way with 22 points (8 of 10 from the field) and 7 assists, despite suffering a knee injury in the first half (which required some treatment on the sidelines) and having another tough collision when he drew a charge on USC's Pe'Shon Howard. In fact, with the foul problems suffered by the rest of the team, Cobbs still managed to play a team high 36 minutes. Cobbs did say post-game that he "will be 100% on Wednesday", which is the Arizona game. With those 7 assists, Cobbs is only 3 assists away from matching Jason Kidd for 4th place in the Cal record book (which is pretty amazing accomplishment for Kidd given how he only played two years at Cal).

Against a USC squad playing without their top scorer (Byron Wesley), the Bears actually started out the game well for a change, going on a 7-0 run. That lead soon evaporated and the Bears found themselves down by as much as 6 points in the first half. Ultimately, USC merely had a 3 point lead, up 30-27, at the half partly thanks to 8 blocks recorded by the Bears who ended the game with a tie for season high with 9 blocks (5 from David Kravish).

The second half was more of a see-saw affair, with senior Justin Cobbs keeping the Bears afloat by scoring 15 of his 22 points in the second half, until the last 8 minutes or so. Freshman Jabari Bird went on a 8-2 run by himself (a layup and two 3's) that pretty much sealed the game with 2.5 minutes left.

Overall, the Bears were able to score 50 points in the second half, compared to just 27 in the first half, thanks to 60% (18 for 30) shooting percentage from the field.

For the Trojans, 4 players were in double digit led by point guard Pe'Shon Howard's 17 points. Omar Oraby was contained by the Bears as he only scored 3 points. Nikola Jovanovic had another solid outing against the Bears by putting up 14 points and 6 boards.

What went right:

  • Getting the win - It was such a relief to not lose at home to USC. While USC does matchup well against the Bears, NCAA committee would not have forgiven the Bears for dropping two games to the Trojans. Finishing strong also gives the Bears some momentum going into Wednesday night's game at Tucson.
  • Jabari Bird - Bird came alive late in the game to record 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting (2 of 5 from 3's). Coach Montgomery said about Bird, "Jabari had a good week. There was a little bounce to his step. He felt better. Everything in practice was better."
  • David Kravish - The junior just missed a double-double with only 9 points to go with 10 boards. His 5 blocks and 2 steals were huge though.
  • Ricky Kreklow - Forced to play the Power Forward role at times, Kreklow was able to be effective. Ricky finished the game with 12 points and 4 boards for the game. Kreklow has looked strong for the Bears in yet another game as a starter.
  • Kameron Rooks - The freshman held his own by playing 16 minutes while only picking up 1 foul.

What went wrong:

  • Richard Solomon in foul trouble - Solomon picked up his 4th foul fairly early in the second half and was only able to play 20 minutes in this game. He only merely shot 1 for 7 from the field for just 5 points to go with 6 boards (but 2 blocks) for the game.
  • Tyrone Wallace's shooting in the first half (1 for 7 from the field) - Wallace was able to shoot better in the second half (4 for 7) to make his total for the game (5 for 14) from the field look slightly more respectable. In the first, however, Wallace just could not finish.
  • Kameron Rooks - The freshman was forced to play 16 minutes but missed the chance to putback/dunk a couple of easy baskets. Bears going to a 4 wing players and Kravish also coincided with their nice run to end the game.

Post Game Interview:

Bears are tied for 3rd in the conference standings with Stanfurd. Colorado and Arizona State are only one loss behind. In the Pac-12 tournaments, only the top 4 seeds get a bye in the first round. Should the Bears find themselves in the 5th position, they would likely have to face USC in the opening round.

Up Next: Bears will try to make it two in a row down in Tucson against Arizona on Wednesday. A road split at the Arizona schools should further solidify the Bears' NCAA resume.