Cal Outlasts USC, 60-50, in Final Home Game of Season
Feb. 22, 2003
BERKELEY - Seven Cal players scored during a 20-3 run that spanned 7:05 early in the second half to lead the Golden Bears to victory over visiting USC, 60-50, Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.
Cal's tenacious defense proved to be its ally today as the Bears held USC to just .250 shooting in the second half, and a .339 clip for the game. The Bears are 9-1 this season when holding their opponent to under .420 shooting from the field.
'Two totally different games from UCLA to USC,' said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer. 'Today...inspiration, passion intensity, teamwork. We played with confidence. The team came out inspired. And I've said all year that when we play as a team, we can beat anybody.'
The Women of Troy (12-15 overall, 7-9 Pac-10) made just six field goals in the second half, the least by a Cal opponent this season. The Bears also outscored USC by 13 (34-21) in the second half, marking this year's largest 20-minute scoring advantage.
The win is Horstmeyer's first at home against USC. The Bears' last win in Berkeley vs. the Women of Troy was in 2000, the season just prior to Horstmeyer's arrival. These two teams have split the season series in four of the last five years.
Cal (0-16 overall, 5-11 Pac-10) came into the game having won just one out of 15 games this season when it trailed at halftime. Make that now two-for-16 after the Bears trailed today 29-26 after the first 20 minutes. In addition, Cal's play as a team approach was never more evident as it collected 21 assists on 24 made baskets, marking the fifth time this year the Bears had 20+ assists.
USC's scored two quick baskets to open the second half, extending its lead to seven at 33-26, and forcing Horstmeyer to call timeout just 48 seconds into the stanza. Horstmeyer's during the timeout came through loud and clear as Nihan Anaz scored on the ensuing possession to start the run. Cal players combined to shoot eight-for-12 from the floor and 4-5 from the free throw line during the stretch. Conversely, USC was one-for-six from the floor with seven turnovers over the same span. With the run, Cal turned a seven-point deficit into a 10-point advantage, 46-36, at the 11:46 mark.
A three-pointer by Rachel Woodward and a Rometra Craig free throw cut the lead to just six, 46-40, with 10:38 to play. But the Bears fought back with a 6-0 run of their own, fueled by a Kristin Iwanaga three-pointer and a Leigh Gregory three-point play to push the lead back to 12, 52-40, with 9:29 to go. The Women of Troy would get as close as seven once again, but a pair of Iwanaga free throws at 4:35 pushed the lead back into double digits for good. Cal enjoyed its largest lead of the game at 14 points, 60-46, following a Timea Ivanyi basket at 1:53.
'We knew that if we rebounded, we would win the game,' continued Horstmeyer. 'That's where we feel the game was won in not giving them lots of second shots, even though they had 15 offensive rebounds. But we forced them into 21 turnovers and were able to go off of those.' Cal outrebounded USC 42-35.
There were five ties and three lead changes in the early going of the game. But an Ebony Hoffman basket at the 12:06 mark pushed USC into a lead they would enjoy for the remainder of the half. An Aisha Hollans shot at 10:34 gave USC a six-point advantage at 19-13, their largest of the game.
Ivanyi led the Bears in both scoring and rebounding for the second straight game as she had 14 points and eight rebounds. Gregory was right behind with 13 points and a team-high-tying eight rebounds, while Anaz added 12.
Senior Amber White, playing the final home game of her career, pilfered a career-high-tying five steals to go along with five assists and as many points. Walk-ons Audrey Watler and Luana Coloma also played the final home game of their respective careers.
Hoffman led USC with 16 points, although she was held to just four points on one-for-nine shooting in the second half. Hollans, a Berkeley HS grad, finished with 14 points.
The game featured several former high school teammates. Cal's LaTasha O'Keith and White prepped alongside USC's Hoffman at Narbonne High School in Los Angeles. In addition, Iwanaga and Rometra Craig were teammates for two years at Archbishop Mitty High School in the South Bay.
Cal returns hits the road for the final time this season next week when it heads to the Arizona desert. The Bears play at Arizona State Thurs., Feb. 27, at 5 p.m. PST and at Arizona March 1, at 12 p.m. PST.
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