LOS ANGELES – Reshanda Gray scored eight consecutive points in a second-half opening run that helped put the game out of reach as No. 18 California took a 76-67 win at USC for the Southern California weekend sweep.
The win keeps California (20-7, 12-4 Pac-12) in prime contention for the No. 2 seed at the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament, and the Bears have also secured a first-round bye at the tournament by guaranteeing a top four conference finish.
Gray led all scorers with 22 points – her 10th 20-point game of the season – and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for her sixth consecutive double-double. Sixteen of her 22 points came in the second half, while 12 of Afure Jemerigbe’s 16 points came in the first half for the Bears.
Brittany Boyd added eight points and eight rebounds while dishing five assists which moves her to No. 3 on the California all-time list with 474 assists in her career.
The Bears shot over 50 percent from the field for the second time this season after going 30-for-59 from the field (.508).
Gennifer Brandon moved to No. 7 on the Pac-12’s all-time rebounding list after pulling down six boards Sunday. Brandon passed Tina Thompson of USC on the list.
USC took an early 5-2 lead just two minutes into the game before the Bears took control with a 14-3 run over the next four minutes that put the Bears ahead 16-8. California would never trail again in the game after a strong first half highlighted by Jemerigbe’s 12 points in the opening 20 minutes.
The Trojans threatened to reclaim the lead on a few occasions in the first half, cutting it down to a 20-19 California advantage after a Crook jump shot. Gottlieb called a timeout immediately after the shot, and the Bears responded with an 8-0 run to reclaim the cushion – led by back-to-back three’s by Mikayla Lyles and Courtney Range to put California ahead 28-19.
The Golden Bear lead extended to as many as 10 points in the half when Gray hit a shot clock buzzer-beater to put Cal ahead 32-22 with 3:29 to go in the half, but the Trojans scored eight of the last 10 points of the half as California held a 34-30 advantage at the break.
California took any thoughts of a USC upset and put them to rest by starting the second half with a 12-0 run. Gray scored the first eight points of the half followed by a jumper from Justine Hartman. Gray stole the ball on the next USC possession and Boyd hit the fast break layup to put the Bears ahead 46-30 less than four minutes into the half.
USC would come as close as eight points the rest of the way, but Gray continued to dominate the second half to lead California to the 76-67 victory.
The Bears close the regular season at home with games against Washington State and Washington next Thursday and Saturday. Thursday night’s game against the Cougars will tip-off at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.