Basketball: USC game thread

FINAL SCORE: USC 66, Cal 63. Sorry, folks, for the haitus, but deadline beckoned. The loss leaves the Bears (14-8, 6-4) in a wild four-way tie for the Pac-10 lead with Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA, and USC and Washington just one game back at 5-5. Yes, UCLA on Saturday is big. Aren’t they all? Three of Cal’s losses were games the Bears could have won in the final minute. This time, Robertson missed a FT Cal needed with 10 seconds left, then Christopher made a FT the Bears needed him to miss with 3.6 seconds left and USC leading by two. Randle finished with 29 points, but was unhappy with his start to the second half, and said the entire team — himself included — needs to figure out what they want out of this season. Christopher had 11 points, but only the two late FTs over the final 28 1/2 minutes. Robertson didn’t make a field goal until the final 2 1/2 minutes and wound up with eight points. Cal got beat 39-31 on the boards, allowing 16 offensive rebounds.

3:35 2nd H: Cal leads 55-54. Randle hit a 3-pointer from the 110 Fwy and has 29 points.

5:34 2nd H: Randle made all three — it’s tied at 50-50. He has 26.

5:34 2nd H: USCs lead is down to 50-47 and Randle is going to the FT line . . . for three shots. Randle has 23 points. Christopher has just nine — none since 8:30 to go in the first half, and Robertson has just two FTs — his second straight bad offensive Thursday.

11:28 2nd H: Cal trails 46-40 after a fastbreak layup by Gutierrez, and he’s going to the FT line for one shot. Randle has 20 points, including eight of the Bears 10  in the half. But Cal cannot keep USC off the boards and isn’t getting anything inside. Either perimeter shots or fastbreak. Not much else offensively. Got some print-edition writing to do — will be back when I can.

14:51 2nd H: Cal has life . . . back-to-back 3-pointers by Randle and it’s 42-36. Cal went 10:41 without scoring. Amazing. Cal ball after the timeout.

16:18 2nd H: Cal still hasn’t scored since Randle’s 3-pointer with 6:43 left and USC’s run is now 23-0! It’s 40-30 Trojans.  

17:52 2nd H: Monty just called timeout after USC opened the half with a 7-0 run. Lewis tied the score just 24 seconds into the half by swishing an open 3-pointer against the zone. Moments later, Boykin used a great up-and-under move to get loose for a layup — and missed it. Putbacks by Simmons and Vucevic — giving USC 11 offensive rebounds for the game — made it 34-30. Cal hasn’t scored since 6:43 left in the first half.

HALFTIME SCORE: Cal 30, USC 27. Eighteen great minutes of defense betrayed by a scoring drought of 6:43 to end the half. Cal led 30-17 after a 3-pointer by Randle, then failed to score on its final 10 possessions of the half. All the good ball movement and shot selection disappeared. Randle had trouble seeing over or around 6-6 Marcus Simmons. USC went from 10:44 to 1:55 without a field goal, getting one then on a goal-tend against Zhang. The Trojans outscored Cal 9-0 over the final 3:11, and we have a game again. USC: 38.5 percent; Cal: 42.9 percent. USC had 13 turnovers, Cal six.

3:58 1st H: Cal leads 30-18. Max Zhang just came into the game and rejected a shot by Marcus Johnson. USC has one point and seven turnovers in nine possessions since 10:44. Trojans are shooting 31.8 percent, Cal an even 50 percent. Randle has 12 points.

6:57 1st H: Cal leads 27-17 after a transition 3-pointer by Randle, capping a 9-0 run. USC’s past five possessions have ended in turnovers. Cal went into a zone on its last possession because Lewis was on the bench and the Trojans had no shooters on the floor– USC got an offensive rebound off a miss, then kicked the ball out of bounds. Christopher has nine points on 4-for-5 shooting. Cal is at 57.9 percent, USC at 36.8 percent. Cal: 2 TOs, USC: 8 TOs.

9:59 1st H: USC has come to life a bit, thanks to 3-pointers by Marcus Simmons and Lewis. But Cal leads 20-17. Boykin, who missed shots early and got tentative at Arizona on Sunday, appears to have his confidence back. He’s 3-for-6, all three from his usual 15-to-17 foot range. Stepheson’s offensive rebounding is hurting Cal. Sanders-Frison is in for Boykin.

13:47 1st H: So far, anyway, the Trojans don’t seem to be in this. Maybe they’re unhappy about the manager reinstatement, who knows? Cal leads 12-5. USC has more turnovers (3) than baskets (2).

14:43 1st H: Cal leads 10-5. Christopher has five points, including a wide-open 3-pointer. Lewis just got called for a charge on a drive to the basket where it certainly appeared Randle arrived late. He got the call anyway. Cal has four FGs and four assists. USC is 2-for-8 from the field.

16:51 1st H: Cal leads 7-2, having scored on four of its first five possessions. Bears are 3-for-5 from the field, USC 1-for-4.

POTTY-MOUTH MANAGER UPDATE: USC graduate student manager Stan Holt, who drew a technical foul last Saturday at Oregon for using foul language in his loud complaints to the game officials and was then fired by coach Kevin O’Neill, has been reinstated and is on the sidelines. No tape across his mouth, either. We suspect lawyers somehow were involved in this sudden about-face. We’ll keep you posted on anything he has to say this evening, but our best guess is there will be little editorial comment from Mr. Holt.

STARTING LINEUPS: Cal will go with its usual group — Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, Omondi Amoke and Jamal Boykin. USC’s starting five is Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis, Marcus Johnson, Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic.

WELCOME: We’re here at the Galen Center, where Cal is seeking its first victory in its fourth try.

A couple pieces of news:

1) Center Markhuri Sanders-Frison is here and dressed and went through early warmups on the floor with his teammates. The teams left the court a few minutes ago, but it looks like MSF is available for tonight. How much he plays . . . who knows?

2) The game is nowhere on traditional TV, nor will it be streamed on Calbears.com. It is available through USCTrojans.com, but apparently you must purchase a subscription to get the game. If you’re interested, I’m told go to the Web site and follow the instructions. Or you can follow the action with Roxy Bernstein and Todd McKim on 1550-AM or let me help you keep tabs with in-game blog updates. Good luck.

Will have starting lineups as soon as they’re available.

Jeff Faraudo