FINAL SCORE: USC 78, Cal 75. The Bears did not stop battling and got within a point when Sanders-Frison made — get this — his second 3-pointer of the final 31.1 seconds. Vucevic, who had missed three straight FTs, then made two with 1.2 seconds left, pushing the USC lead to three points. Jeff Powers’ near-halfcourt shot to tie was late and missed. Cal (13-13, 6-8) has lost four in a row for the first time in Mike Montgomery’s three seasons. Sanders-Frison finished with a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds. Kamp had 16 points. Gutierrez scored 13, but shot 2 for 13. Jones scored 22 for USC (14-12, 6-7) — all in the second half — and Vucevic had 21 points and 10 rebounds for his 15th double-double.
0:44.2 2nd H: USC leads 73-67 after a jumer by Sanders-Frison. Things got a little hairy with 1:06 left when Gutierrez wrapped his arms around Donte Smith for a foul and Smith responded by going at Gutierrez for a moment. Both eventually were whistled for technicals, each picking up his fifth PF in the process. Cal has gotten as close as six points, but no closer.
1:53 2nd H: USC leads 70-60 and Maurice Jones, who has 21 points, is shooting two FTs.
10:50 2nd H: USC is back up 55-47 thanks solely to Maurice Jones, a 5-foot-7, 155-pound freshman from Saginaw, Mich. Jones has scored USC’s last 13 points, including 3-pointers on each of their past three possessions. He has 16 in the half after going scoreless in the first half. The guy is super-quick and is showing range to 25 feet.
14:53 2nd H: Cal got within one point when Gutierrez swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key. But Alex Stepheson just scored a layup and was fouled by Kamp, who has three. Stepheson will shoot one FT after the timeout. USC leads 42-39.
15:36 2nd H: Kevin O’Neill is burning through his timeouts. Cal now trails just 40-36 after a 7-0 run that includes an old-fashioned three-point play and driving layup by Smith.
17:39 2nd H: Cal has pulled within 37-29 after a putback by Kamp and USC called timeout. Much more energy from the Bears and the crowd. Gutierrez, who was 0 for 6 in the first half, scored on a drive and free throw and is in attack mode on both ends of the floor. Sanders-Frison picked up his third PF on an illegal pick, but is staying in the game. Monty no doubt figures this is no time to be timid.
HALFTIME SCORE: USC 33, Cal 22. A flying putback dunk by Richard Solomon with 2 seconds left gets the Bears within 11 points. Cal shot 24 percent (6 for 25) in the half, USC 43.3 percent (13 for 30). Kamp and Powers each have six points for the Bears. Vucevic has 12 for USC. Cal’s lowest-scoring first half since a 19-12 lead over Cal Poly on Dec. 18.
1:54 1st H: USC leads 33-19. The Bears are up to 21.7 percent (5 for 23). Vucevic, held to six points when the teams played last month, already has 12 to go with seven rebounds — well on his way to a league-leading 15th double-double. At 6-10, he also has made both his 3-point attempts. Most underrated player in the Pac-10.
6:13 1st H: Powers, who had his shot stuffed by Marcus Simmons on the previous possession, hit a 3-pointer and Cal ended USC’s 14-0 run. Trojans lead 24-14. Cal shooting 15.8 percent (3 for 19). Kamp just picked up his second foul, but remains on the floor.
7:08 1st H: USC leads 24-11. Trojans have run off 14 straight. Cal is shooting 2 for 17. Sanders-Frison is back on the floor with two fouls — no choice.
9:57 1st H: USC has run off nine straight points, including a 3-pointer by Vucevic, and leads 19-11. Cal is 2 for 12 from the field in 10 minutes. Ouch.
11:52 1st H: Cal leads 11-10 despite shooting 2 for 10 from the field. The Bears are 7 for 8 at the FT line. Sanders-Frison just picked up his second PF. Donte Smith also has two for USC and is out.
A ROAD WIN FOR UW: Washington sets up Saturday’s showdown at UofA by beating Arizona State 79-62 behind 22 points/12 rebounds from Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
SITTING WITH KJ: Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters is courtside with the former Cal scoring king.
THIS SCORE JUST IN: Arizona holds onto sole possession of first place after a 79-70 win over visiting Washington State. Derrick Williams scored 26 for Arizona, Klay Thompson 30 for WSU.
15:56 1st H: USC leads 6-0. Cal is shooting 0 for 6 with a turnover. Only good news for the Bears: USC guard Marcus Simmons just picked up his second PF. Gutierrez is shooting two after the timeout.
THE MAYOR IS HERE: Sacramento mayor and former Cal/NBA star Kevin Johnson is at the game, currently autographing the back of a young woman’s shirt.
LINEUPS: Cal will start Harper Kamp, Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Jeff Powers, Jorge Gutierrez and Brandon Smith. USC goes with Alex Stepheson, Nikola Vucevic, Jio Fontan, Marcus Simmons and Donte Smith.
WELCOME: We’re back here at Haas Pavilion for tonight’s game between the Bears (13-12, 6-7) and USC (13-12, 5-7). We’ll have starting lineups in a few minutes, but we have learned that freshman Allen Crabbe will sit out again as he recovers from a concussion he sustained last Thursday at Washington. His replacement? No official word, but we’re assuming it will be freshman Jeff Powers, who scored 27 points in two games last weekend.