Before I get started, I just want to say how much I enjoyed watching this team play. An undermanned team all year, they still produced exciting moments and shocked us all. The team has been incredible all year.
That being said, this game sounds like it was pretty ugly. Cal started great, getting up 11-3 to start off the game. Just a few made 3’s from Smith opened up the driving lanes for USC, and suddenly the Trojans had evened it up 20-20. From there, USC would go on a 7-0 run, and Cal would never lead again. USC went up 35-27 at the half. USC would go up double digits early in the second, and Cal would never cut it to single digits.
Cal usually needs to stay out of foul trouble and get fouled to play well. They did neither. Cal only got to the foul line 9 times, well below their usual production. Kamp picked up 4 fouls, and Solomon, MSF, Gutierrez, and Smith all picked up 3. USC got twice as many free throws as the Bears did. Officiating didn’t cost Cal the game, but it didn’t help.
Allen Crabbe played terrifically despite being guarded by Ramon Simmons, the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Crabbe shot above 50% from the field and scored 21 points, while Simmons picked up 4 fouls. Crabbe did his part; his teammates just didn’t do theirs.
The USC defense was suffocating, as Smith turned it over an uncharacteristic 6 times while Gutierrez turned it over 7 times. Jorge played his worst game of the year, with his turnovers and 2-10 shooting. Smith played decently, but he didn’t handle the ball very well. Meanwhile the staring posts struggled as well, with Kamp and Sanders-Frison combining for just 8 points. The only real support was Richard Solomon, who continued his progress with an 11 point, 6 rebound performance.
Nikola Vucevic was held in check; the only problem was USC got what they wanted from everybody else. Stephenson cleaned up the rebounding, Jones and Smith were on fire, and Jio Fontan kept the game in control. USC had a lot go right for them, and it showed in how the game ended up.
It’s been a great year. Cal surpassed all expectations and surprised everyone in the Pac-10. They finished fourth when they were predicted to finish seventh. In the end, it’s not enough for an NCAA Tournament bid. That’s ok. There’s always next year. For now, let’s just enjoy a postseason run, even if it’s not in the NCAAs.