Bears' Bigs Outduel Trojans' Post in Cal Win

Photo: Allen Crabbe was 3-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 12 points in the Bears' victory over the Trojans. Cal split the two games in the freshman's return home to Los Angeles.
Chris McDermut/Staff
Allen Crabbe was 3-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 12 points in the Bears' victory over the Trojans. Cal split the two games in the freshman's return home to Los Angeles.

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LOS ANGELES - David Bowie and Queen's "Under Pressure" blared from the speakers and the USC student section chanted "Choke! Choke! Choke!" as Cal players stood at the free throw line with three different opportunities to put the game out of reach. Free throws clanked off the front rim, rattled in and out of the hoop and the Cal men's basketball team looked destined to blow a game it had firmly in tow with just 30 seconds remaining.

Instead, Cal utilized what it had so well the entire game - its defense - to ensure that it left Los Angeles with at least one win.

Despite only making two of six free throws down the stretch, the Bears forced a long Jio Fontan miss with time expiring and escaped with a 68-66 victory over USC on Saturday night at the Galen Center.

Cal (10-9, 3-4 in the Pac-10) had a big game in the paint on both ends. Harper Kamp led the Bears with 19 points and seven rebounds and Markhuri Sanders-Frison scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Both also limited USC big men Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson to below their season averages in points and rebounds.

Cal also received surprising contributions from Brandon Smith and Bak Bak. Smith scored 12 points and dished out three assists and Bak Bak utilized his length to aid Cal's pesky zone defense. The lanky sophomore also added seven points.

Kamp was impressed with the all-around effort, but admitted that the Bears need to bring that same type of vigor when they're at Haas Pavilion.

"It's better to get the win on the road but we need to bring that kind of intensity at home," Kamp said. "Sometimes we're too comfortable at home. On the road we feel our backs against the wall and we bring it a little more."

The Bears overcame a career night from Trojan reserve guard Donte Smith, who scored a career-high 24 points on an astounding eight 3-pointers. USC's only consistent perimeter shooter, Smith caught fire in the beginning of the second half, scoring 12 points on four consecutive possessions and bringing USC (11-9, 3-4) back from an 11-point deficit.

The Bears played one of their best defensive halves of the season in the opening 20 minutes, holding USC to 22 points on 8-for-28 shooting. Cal scored only nine points in the first 12:28 of the game and surrendered an early 14-0 run by the Trojans, but kept the game close with an airtight zone defense.

The Bears took control of the half from there, giving up only six points over the final 9:09 and holding Vucevic, USC's leading scorer, to only two points - both on free throws - for the entire half.

The second half was a more back-and-forth affair and was heavily influenced by an intentional foul call with 3:06 remaining. With Cal leading 58-57, Kamp drove to the bucket and was wrestled to the ground by Fontan, who was initially only whistled for a personal foul.

Montgomery nagged official Tony Padilla to change the call to an intentional foul, and after a long delay and video review, the Bears were awarded two free throws and the ball. Kamp would hit both free throws and an ensuing Sanders-Frison hook shot gave the Bears a 62-57 lead with 2:48 remaining.

"That was huge," Montgomery said. "To give (the referees) credit, because they didn't want to listen to me anymore, the other official came over and said 'we need to check that,' I don't think they wanted to call it, but I think they had to."


Gabriel Baumgaertner covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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