No. 6 California 82, South Florida 78

March 26, 2013

California coach Lindsay Gottlieb made one thing perfectly clear as the Bears and South Florida headed to overtime.

Don't think about the 14-point lead Cal squandered.

''Be who we are, do what we do,'' she said, recalling her comments after the game. ''We're looking forward. There is one option and that's to win this game.''

And that's just what they did.

Layshia Clarendon scored 27 points to help California beat South Florida 82-78 on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Reshanda Gray added 14 points for the second-seeded Golden Bears (30-2), who advanced to the round of 16 for second time in program history and reached 30 victories for the first time. Cal will play the winner of Tuesday's game between No. 3 seed Penn State and No. 6 LSU in the regional semifinals on Saturday.

The Bears were up 67-57 before the 10th-seeded Bulls went on a 13-3 run capped by a trio of free throws by Inga Orekhova with under a second remaining that tied it at 70.

California missed eight of 11 free throws down the stretch in regulation, but went 8 for 10 at the line in overtime.

''We made some really dumb plays and let them stick around in the game and let them push back,'' Clarendon said. ''Just made some mistakes and didn't knock down free throws, but we won.''

Andrea Smith scored 24 points and Orekhova added 22 to lead South Florida (22-11), which won its first NCAA tournament game Saturday.

California finished 21 of 39 from the line, while the Bulls hit 20 of 26.

There were just three field goals in overtime, two for Cal and one for South Florida.

The Golden Bears started to get the ball inside in the second half, scoring 22 of their 30 points in the paint after the break.

Clarendon hit a 3 and another bucket to put Cal up 62-49 with 8:17 remaining and it looked as though the Bears had it sealed. But after California shut down Orekhova for about 24 minutes bridging both halves, the junior came roaring back late in regulation.

''At half time I said, `no more 3s for Inga - I know that's a lot easier said than done,'' Gottlieb said. ''But then down the stretch we put her on the free throw line and that was big.''

The Bulls' run to tie the game came after Orekhova's fourth 3 pulled them within 69-65 with 20.7 seconds remaining. Then Smith hit two of three free throws to make it 69-67 with 11.1 seconds to go.

Brittany Boyd, who finished with 12 points, hit the front end of a one-and-one before Orekhova missed from 3-point range but was fouled by Clarendon.

''It was exciting,'' Clarendon said. ''I think this is what March is all about. It was one of those games where, toward the end, the clock couldn't tick any slower. It felt like you were in a movie.''

Orekhova finished 6 of 14 from the field and Smith hit 7 of 21 shots.

After the third one swished through the net she leaned her head back in relief.

The game was very physical, with bodies hitting the floor often. In the second half a technical foul was called on Caitlin Rowe when she shoved Gennifer Brandon away after officials called a jump ball at California's end of the court.

''I just told our guys `let's just play one possession at a time,'' South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. ''If we get this thing to single digits with four (minutes) to go, we'll be fine. That's what they did.''

Cal led 37-32 at halftime, despite struggling to get the ball inside. The Bears were up 20-15 before South Florida put together a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer and a field goal by Andrea Smith, to go ahead 29-25. But the Bears shut down the Bulls for four minutes and went on a 12-3 run to close the half, including six points from Clarendon.