FINAL SCORE: USC 70, Cal 56. The Trojans (19-13) were too big, too strong, too long, too quick. Alex Stepheson had 14 points and 16 rebounds for USC, Maurice Jones scored 16, Donte Smith 14 and Jio Fontan 12. Crabbe finished with 21 points for Cal (17-14), which had a four-game win streak snapped and now awaits a possible NIT bid.
2:44 2nd H: The comeback didn’t last long. USC answered with five straight points and leads 64-52.
6:38 2nd H: Crabbe just scored on a difficult floater off a drive, then a running 3-pointer, bringing Cal withn 59-49. In between, USC coach Kevin O’Neill looked at his assistants and asked, “Why didn’t we recruit this guy?” Crabbe has 17 points.
7:43 2nd H: Solomon just scored on a drive to the basket and will be shooting one FT after the timeout. He has nine points, five rebounds and two blocks. Cal trails 57-43. Crabbe only Cal player in double digits — he has 12. Four USC players have 10 or more.
8:56 2nd H: Marcus Simmons just sat down with his fourth PF. Still, USC leads 57-41.
11:29 2nd H: Donte Smith, who has four 3-pointers and 14 points, just went to the bench with his fourth foul.
11:35 2nd H: USC is carving up the Bears from the perimeter. Remember, the Trojans shot 19 for 39 from deep in the first two meetings. They are 8 for 15 here, and Cal has no answer. After starting 1 for 11 from the field, USC is shooting 18 for 29 — 62 percent.
12:11 2nd H: Jones just hit a 3-pointer for USC, which leads 53-35. All but over. And Vucevic has been on the bench this whole time.
15:59 2nd H: USC leads 39-29 — its biggest of the game. Vucevic, who got his first FG with 17:02 left, just picked up his third foul, pushing off on Kamp. He’s on the bench. Cal has turned the ball over three straight times. The Bears don’t settle down soon, this could get out of hand.
MORE FROM HALFTIME: The Bears are between a rock and a hard place defensively. Donte Smith, with three 3-pointers, is torching the zone. But with foul trouble everywhere, especially among their three inside guys, the Bears need to protect themselves more than man-to-man allows. On offense, Kamp and MSF a combined 2 for 9 from the field. USC’s size an issue, obviously. Gutierrez is 1 for 5 and has three fouls. Two of them came on charges — he was trying to be aggressive and make something happen. Now he has to dial it back a bit, not easy for him. Crabbe has had aggressive moments — Cal needs more of them. Consider: USC didn’t score on its first nine possessions, but has an eight-point halftime lead. A tough climb for the Bears.
HALFTIME SCORE: USC 35, Cal 27. A 3-pointer at the buzzer by Marcus Simmons — a 26-percent 3-point shooter — pushed the Trojans into an eight-point lead. The Trojans used a 10-0 run to zoom into a 27-20 lead. Brandon Smith hit a big 3-pointer for the Bears, then Kamp finally got on the board. Gutierrez has three fouls for Cal, and Kamp, MSF and Solomon each have two. Cal shooting 37.9 percent, including 1 for 4 from 3-point. USC is at 39.3 percent and is 6 for 12 from deep.
3:39 1st H: Cal’s lead is down to 20-19 after a putback by Alex Stepheson, who will shoot one FT after the timeout. Sanders-Frison picked up his second PF on the play. Kamp, who is 0 for 5 and scoreless, is on the bench with two fouls. MSF also has just two points, although he has seven rebounds. USC’s length definitely bothering the Bears inside. Solomon has a pair of baskets, but his inexperience is showing, too. A real bad shot a moment ago, a turnover and didn’t provide help defense on the play where MSF picked up his first foul. Kamp is out and Bak is in. Cal lineup now: Bak, Solomon, Crabbe, Gutierrez and Smith.
7:37 1st H: Cal leads 16-9. Bears have switched back and forth a bit from man to zone. Vucevic picked up his second foul at 8:13, charging into Kamp. Cal shooting 7 for 21; USC 3 for 16.
11:30 1st H: Cal still up 11-3. Kamp came out a couple minutes ago after getting three straight shots blocked inside. USC has come away with points on just one of 16 possessions. The Trojans are shooting 1 for 11 and have five turnovers. Cal is shooting 5 for 17 with one turnover.
12:29 1st H: Cal leads 11-3 after a steal and layup by Crabbe. USC finally got on the scoreboard with 14:27 left when Jio Fontan hit a 3-pointer. USC has scored on one of 14 possessions.
15:08 1st H: Good news/bad news for Cal. The Bears opened in man-to-man defense and USC hasn’t been able to do a thing with it. The Trojans have failed to score on their first eight possessions, shooting 0 for 6 with four turnovers. USC coach Kevin O’Neill not happy at all. However . . . Cal is shooting 2 for 9 and leads justs 4-0 at the first media timeout.
STARTING LINEUPS: Cal will go with Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Harper Kamp, Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and Brandon Smith. USC is starting Alex Stepheson, Nikola Vucevic, Marcus Simmons, Donte Smith and Jio Fontan.
WELCOME: We’re here at the Staples Center for today’s lunch-time tipoff between Cal (17-13) and USC (18-13). I’ll be back with starting lineups in a few minutes.