In what was a hyper-tense game through and through, but USC prevailed over California on Thursday night at the Galen Center, 66-63.
The Trojans had trailed by 13 in the first half, only to go on a monster 25-0 run to take a 12-point lead, 42-30, with 16 minutes left. Cal would fight back and even take the lead, but USC used clutch shooting in the final minutes to bring home the victory in front of announced crowd of 7,412.
Said Cal coach Mike Montgomery afterward: "I don't remember a team going on a 25-0 run on us, ever."
USC (13-9, 5-5) is now only one game out of first place in the Pacific 10 Conference. On a two-game losing streak, Cal (14-8, 6-4) is still in a four-way tie for first with Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA.
Guard Dwight Lewis led USC with 13 points and point guard Mike Gerrity had 12 points and two assists. Cal's Jerome Randle scored a game-high 29 points and Patrick Christopher had 11.
USC post players Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic had a combined 20 points and 18 rebounds, and held the three members of Cal's frontcourt to 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Stepheson played only 20 minutes. He sat out much of the second half when USC coach Kevin O'Neill went with a different look.
"What we did was we went smaller," O'Neill said. "We sacrificed playing big.
"We had to do something."
Player of the game: Randle was undoubtedly the story from Cal's sideline. One of only two Bears in double figures, the 5-foot-10, 172-pound point guard put up shot after shot Thursday. And he made a lot of them, including six of 12 from three-point range.
This isn't the first time the senior has produced these kinds of numbers. He had 39 points against Washington State last month and has now scored 25 or more points 10 times in his college career.
USC guard Marcus Simmons, entrusted to defend Randle for much of the night, called him the "greatest guard I've ever guarded."
Randle stopped USC's second-half run with a big three-pointer and scored eight consecutive points at that point.
"Jerome just decided he didn't want to lose," Montgomery said. "He just started making plays."
Said O'Neill: "He's a tremendous player."
Play of the game: With USC down 57-56 with less than two minutes to go, Gerrity knocked down a crucial three-pointer to give the Trojans a 59-57 lead they would never relinquish. The next time down, Gerrity made another three — this time from a good four feet beyond the arc — to get the crowd roaring.
After the game, Gerrity said he couldn't celebrate the shots too much because Cal pushed the ball back immediately, but O'Neill did the praising for him.
"Gerrity's late threes were huge," O'Neill said. "He played like a senior point guard tonight."
Quote of the game: Randle was hot all night long but not hot enough to make his final shot from three-point range. With the Bears down 62-60 with 14 seconds left, the feisty point guard put up a flailing shot from near the out-of-bounds line in the corner. It hit the rim but nothing else. Did he think the shot had a chance?
"I asked him if he thought it was going in," Lewis said, smiling. "He said no."
Notes: Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson was in the USC locker room after the game. Lawson, who knows Stepheson from their days on North Carolina's team, is in town to play the Lakers on Friday night. ... Lewis became USC's all-time leader in games played at 125 with Thursday night's appearance. He entered the game tied with former Trojans point guard Brandon Granville.