Dec. 31, 2011
LOS ANGELES - The California Golden Bears erased one 16-point deficit, but didn't have a second comeback in them as they fell 74-54 in a New Year's Eve morning contest at USC. Freshman point guard Brittany Boyd lead the Bears with 14 points.
The Bears started the game ice cold, making just one of their first eight shots, with two turnovers and a pair of USC blocks helping to fuel a Trojan 7-0 run to start the game and an 8-0 run that put USC up 15-2.
A pair of under-the-hoop spin moves by freshman point guard Brittany Boyd gave Cal its first offensive presence, but the Trojans kept adding on to the score with guard Ashley Corral hitting her fourth three-pointer (in five attempts) of the half to put USC up 22-10 with just under 12 minutes left in the half.
The Bears, powered by freshman post Reshanda Gray and strong defensive play, mounted a comeback. The Bears forced a USC turnover with just over 3:30 to play. Freshman forward Justine Hartman found Gray in the low post, with Gray making the layup to put the Bears down seven, 29-22. Gray grabbed a rebound after a Trojan miss on the other end, drove the lane to cut the deficit to five, 31-26, with 1:45 to play. After a steal by sophomore guard Afure Jemerigbe, Hartman hit a jumper from ten feet out to make it a three-point game, 31-28, with 1:20 left in the half. Junior guard Layshia Clarendon had a shot with four seconds left in the half to make it a one-point game, but the ball clanged off the rim and Cal went into the locker room trailing 32-29.
Cal started the game shooting just over 20 percent from the field, 5-for-24. They closed out the first half by making 7-of-14 field goal attempts.
The Bears started the second half with the ball. Junior forward Talia Caldwell picked up an offensive rebound and got a put back to make it a 32-31 game. After a pair of three-point misses by the Trojans, Cal took its first lead of the game, 33-32, on a low post feed to Boyd. The Bears lead lasted mere seconds as the Trojans drained a three on the opposite end to take a 35-33 lead.
After sophomore forward Gennifer Brandon tied the game on a layup, the two teams battled under the Cal hoop, with Cal never quite getting good enough position to get a layup and also failing to draw a foul call. On the opposite end, the Trojans hit several jumpers to fuel a 15-1 run that put USC back in control, up 50-36 with just under 12 minutes to play.
The Bears started a second comeback attempt. The Bears full-court pressure caused USC to cough up the ball, with steals translating to four Cal points. Clarendon drained a three with just under five to play to turn a 19-point deficit into a 12-point margin, 62-50, but back-to-back foul calls on the Bears pushed the USC lead back up to 66-50.
Cal never managed to mount another comeback, succumbing to the Trojans for their second Pac-12 loss of the season.
"Obviously, we have a very disappointed locker room," said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "I think collectively we understand, we came down to LA and we got beat. I credit USC, they came out here and they outplayed us. They did what they needed to get the win and we didn't. We are humble enough to say that and to say what do we need to do to get better. We expect to win games on the road against really good teams. USC is a really good team and we didn't do what we needed to do."
Boyd led the Bears with 14 points. Clarendon (11) and Gray (10) were also in the double digits. Brandon led the defensive efforts with 12 rebounds. She also had seven points.
The Bears are now 9-5 overall this season and 0-2 in the Pac-12. USC improved to 6-6, 0-1 in the Pac-12.
"I think our biggest concern is our ability to score the basketball," Gottlieb said. "We know they have players that can make shots. It puts so much pressure on if we can't put the ball in the basket. We have to figure out how to play through contact. We need to figure out how to make plays when things aren't easy. Now we'll do that. We'll go back to Northern California and get better and understand that championships aren't won in the first weekend."
Cal returns home, still looking for the first Pac-12 victory, as they take on Oregon State on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. followed by an afternoon game against Oregon on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets for all Pac-12 home games are on sale now on CalBears.com.