Clampdown on Clancy Stifles Trojans

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Sam Clancy returned to USC for his senior season in order to improve his lot in the NBA Draft. And all he has done is become a frontrunner for Pac-10 Player of the Year and All-America honors.

But when the season is over, Clancy won't send scouts a tape of Saturday's game against Cal. If he were to show general managers how Jamal Sampson blanketed him, his stock would drop for sure.

As the primary defender on Clancy, Sampson held the Trojans' lead horse to 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting. As a team, the Bears (20-6, 11-5 in the Pac-10) beat up on No. 20 USC, 83-64, in the last game of the season at Haas Pavilion.

At 6-foot-11, Sampson holds a four-inch height advantage over Clancy. And the Bears' freshman used every bit of his length to frustrate Clancy.

"He played me better than anyone else this year," Clancy said of Sampson. "They were fronting me and putting Sampson, a pretty big guy, on me and making it hard for me to get off good shots."

Clancy's string of 11 straight double-doubles was snapped Saturday. In Pac-10 play, he came into the game averaging 21.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, but snagged only six rebounds against the Bears.

In their first meeting Jan. 24, Clancy had 26 points and 11 rebounds.

"Sam Clancy's probably the Player of the Year in this league," Cal coach Ben Braun said.

Sampson finished with seven points, 10 rebounds, and four blocked shots. His defense made all the difference.

"Jamal was phenomenal today," center Solomon Hughes said. "He consistently gave Clancy a dominating presence on defense and offense."

Even though others took turns on Clancy, Sampson did the bulk of the work.

"Give a lot of credit to Jamal Sampson," Braun said. "I think Jamal felt responsible for holding people down as this team's defensive center."

Cal held USC (19-7, 11-5) to 33.8 percent shooting, limiting Trojan sharpshooter David Bluthenthal to 3-of-10 from the field for eight points.

Lost in the defensive effort was the Bears shooting a season-best 58.3 percent. In the second half, Cal made 11 of 17 field goals (64.7 percent.).

Hughes, in his last game at Haas, scored 10 points while pulling down seven rebounds. A career-high seven assists offset Amit Tamir's 1-of-7 shooting.

Hughes, along with seniors Dennis Gates and Ryan Forehan-Kelly, started on Senior Day. Gates went for a career-high 17 points. Forehan-Kelly added 14.

A.J. Diggs started in place of Shantay Legans, who missed the game with a concussion suffered against UCLA, courtesy of a forearm from Bruins forward Matt Barnes.

Diggs played 28 minutes, tying his career high with 12 points. The sophomore also had four assists and three steals while defending USC's Brandon Granville.

"I just knew I had to step up a little bit more because a piece of the

team was missing," Diggs said.

He answered the call, which didn't surprise anyone.

"He's not scared of anybody," Forehan-Kelly said. "A.J. has a problem. He's not scared of anything."

Without Legans, Diggs showed his mettle.

"A.J. certainly has never backed off from a challenge," Braun said.

With the win, Cal moved into a three-way tie for second in the conference, a game behind Oregon.

The Bears assumed control of the game early in the first half, extending their lead to as much as 22 in the second half. After halftime, the closest USC got was seven with 15:13 left in the game.

The Bears swept the season series with USC, but Clancy still isn't convinced, saying the second-place Cal isn't all that impressive.

Cal is still unranked, and Clancy doesn't think the Bears are a top-tier team. Asked where they fit in the Pac-10, Clancy was blunt.

"Right in the middle," he said, "where they belong."


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