California coach Lindsay Gottlieb knows the seventh-ranked
Golden Bears still have a long way to go before being recognized as
an elite team.
Back-to-back wins over perennial Pac-12 power Stanford and
conference-leading USC should help.
Four days after toppling the Cardinal, the Golden Bears rallied
from six points down in regulation then held the Trojans without a
basket in overtime to beat USC 71-63 on Thursday night.
”I told the players, I think they’re doing something special
that is changing this program and what Cal basketball means,”
Gottlieb said. ”Great teams have to sometimes win when you have to
battle from behind. (We) finally dug in and figured out what we
needed to do.”
It took a monumental night from Gennifer Brandon to keep the
Brandon shook off a slow first half with 15 of her 23 points
coming after halftime and matched a 34-year-old school record with
26 rebounds while helping Cal (14-2, 4-1 Pac-12) end a three-game
losing streak to USC.
Brandon scored the final six points in regulation after the
Bears fell behind 62-56, then made a key block and scored on an
offensive rebound in overtime.
”I was basically in a daze,” said Brandon, who went 9 of 18
from the floor. ”I don’t know why, it was just a different type of
focus. My mind was just on the rim and soft touch like we do in
The Golden Bears shot just 31.4 percent from the floor and were
outplayed for most of the game before rallying from six points down
in the final 1:42 of regulation and outscoring the Trojans 9-1 in
the extra period.
Layshia Clarendon scored six of her 27 points in overtime for
Cal, which looked sluggish early while coming off an emotional win
over No. 6 Stanford four days earlier. Brittany Boyd added 12.
Kate Oliver had 10 points and 10 rebounds for USC (7-9, 4-1) and
Cassie Harberts added 15 points. The Trojans could have moved
one-half game ahead of No. 14 UCLA in the Pac-12 standings but
instead dropped into a second-place tie with Cal.
USC coach Michael Cooper said Brandon was the difference.
”(She) was putting up Dwight Howard numbers,” Cooper said.
”Sometimes skill and game plans and schemes go out the window.
It’s a matter of who’s going to fight the hardest to win that
rebound, and that’s what she did.”
Brandon did most of her damage in the final nine minutes of the
second half. She scored 12 of Cal’s final 18 points and grabbed 15
offensive rebounds. Brandon’s 26 total rebounds tied Colleen
Galloway’s school record set in 1978.
The Bears needed every one of them after the Trojans controlled
the tempo for nearly 35 minutes. USC packed its defense tight into
the key, controlled the boards and kept Cal from getting much going
in the interior.
Aliya Crook’s 3-pointer with 2:43 remaining in the second half
gave the Trojans a 58-53 lead. She later made two free throws with
1:42 left but USC went scoreless after that while Brandon scored
six straight points to force overtime.
It was all Cal in the extra period.
Boyd took a short pass from Brandon and hit a fastbreak layup
before Clarendon scored on a reverse layup. After Crook’s free
throw pulled USC to 66-63, Brandon scored on a putback and
Clarendon followed with three free throws.
”I thought we conceded the early pace and the style,” Gottlieb
said. ”Later in the game we really got into a flow of getting the
right people where we wanted them to be. When we get things in
rhythm, that’s when we get offensive rebounds.”
The Bears, who came in ranked third in the country in rebounding
margin, were outworked on the boards for most of the first half and
allowed the Trojans to build an 18-14 lead following a putback by
Alexyz Vaioletama later hit an 18-foot jumper for USC to make it
27-24 before Cal closed the first half on a 12-4 run. Clarendon
scored four points during the run before Boyd’s 3-pointer capped it
and gave the Bears a 36-31 lead at the break.
USC trailed by six early in the second half then went on an 11-0
run to go up 46-41. Crook, who scored 11 points in overtime to beat
the Bears at Haas Pavilion last year, had all but two of the points
for the Trojans.