Thursday, February 9, 2012
Basketball: Cal 75, USC 49
By Pedro Moura
LOS ANGELES -- For most of one half of Thursday night's game against Cal, lowly USC looked like it could actually compete against the class of the Pac-12 conference.
Buoyed by superb play from sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, the Trojans actually led, 23-19, with eight minutes to go in the first half. Then the Bears went on a 16-6 run to finish off the period, and USC was soon run out of its own building. Cal ended up outscoring the Trojans 40-20 in the second half and wound up with a 75-49 victory.
"I thought we played a pretty good first half," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said afterward. "But we have to do a better job of putting together two good halves of basketball."
USC (6-19, 1-11) has rarely done that this season, winning only two games since November and putting together only three consistent games in that span -- the two victories against Utah and TCU and a close loss at Washington State earlier this month.
"It just feels like a re-run," said Jones, who led the Trojans with 17 points in 29 minutes.
Cal was led by Allen Crabbe, who had 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Senior forward Harper Kamp added 18 points.
Byron Wesley had 11 points for the Trojans for his third straight double-digit point game.
Player of the game: Jones had a great game, scoring his 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and turning the ball over just once. And his numbers would likely have been better had he not missed a significant stretch of the second half because of a cut on his left hand that bled.
Plus-minuses aren't kept for NCAA games, but Jones' was clearly the best on the team. Cal took advantage every time he was out of the game, including for three-plus minutes in the first half when he picked up two fouls.
"When Mo's not in there, we don't function very well," O'Neill said. "Not that we function at a high level when he is in there. But when he's not in there, it's difficult for us.
"We're asking too much of Mo."
Said Jones of his teammates' struggles when he was out of the game: "You can't blame them. They're all new to this."
Stat of the game: USC was out-rebounded 41-28 by the Bears, and Cal got a third of the available boards when on the offensive end.
O'Neill said Cal's big men were overwhelming in that department, with USC's James Blasczyk and Garrett Jackson combining for only 12 rebounds. The Bears' David Kravish, on the other hand, had 18 on his own.
"No matter what size you have, if you don't gang rebound, you're not going to rebound well," O'Neill said. "The bottom line is, those guys are more experienced and they're better and us on the front line.
"And it showed tonight. It really did."
Quote of the game: "There was a level of frustration a long time ago." -- Jones
The 5-7 guard was asked after Thursday's game if he sensed a certain level of frustration creeping into the team's mentality following another blowout loss at the hands of a conference opponent.
His answer was quick, sharp and delivered without a hint of a smile, although it elicited laughs in those he was speaking to.
Final notes: USC's two starting forwards, Jackson and Wesley, combined to shoot 7-of-31 from the field, good for a 23-percent mark...Crabbe, a product of L.A. Price High, had a contingent of two dozen or so family members in attendance at the Galen Center (announced crowd: 3,707), who cheered wildly for every one of his eight made shots...O'Neill told the Trojans not to come into the arena at any cost on Friday, giving the players a full, no-strings-attached day off Friday before prepping for Sunday's game against Stanford on Saturday.