USC Falls 62-53 To No. 15 Cal

Dec. 22, 2006

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The USC women's basketball team held tight to No. 15 California, but the injury-depleted Trojan roster was unable to get ahead of the Bears in the final five minutes, falling 62-53 to Cal on Friday afternoon at the Galen Center. The Trojans improved their rebounding effort in the second half, but struggled from the floor to finish the game with a season-low 29.7 shooting percentage. USC moves to 6-6 overall and 0-2 in Pac-10 play with the loss, while California is now 9-2, 1-1.

Aside from allowing the Bears several trips to the free-throw line in the first half, USC's defense was strong against Cal, forcing 11 first-half turnovers. The Bears were powerful on the boards, however, outrebounding the Trojans 19-11 on to help Cal hold a 28-26 advantage at the half. Balanced scoring and defensive control on both ends kept the teams tight throughout, although USC cooled off from the floor in the second half. The Trojans actually ended up passing up the Bears on the boards by the final buzzer, grabbing 25 second-half rebounds, but an ill-timed scoring slump at the close of the game that saw the Trojans hit just two field goals in the final five minutes while Cal spent time at the free throw line with 14 free throw attempts (10 made). Ashley Walker had a double-double for the Bears, scoring a game-high 17 points and adding 13 rebounds. USC was led by Shay Murphy, who tallied her 37th straight game in double figures with 17 points for the Women of Troy.

With starting point guard Jamie Hagiya in foul trouble and freshman Hailey Dunham sidelined with a back injury sustained against Stanford, walk-on Nicole Berberet was handed the reins. She stayed in control for the Women of Troy, dishing out an assist and nailing her first career 3-pointer during her 19 minutes of action on the floor.

USC could manage only a single free throw until Shay Murphy hit a jumper from the top of the paint to make it a 7-3 Cal lead at15:35 in the first half. She delivered a three soon after, cutting the Bear advantage to 7-6. Cal creeped back ahead with six straight points, but Simone Jelks nailed a 3-pointer at 12:15 to stop the run. The Trojans hurt themselves on the boards, however, getting doubled up in rebounding 12-6 at the nine-minute mark of the first. The USC defense did get the job done on both ends, putting the Bears up against the shot clock several times and forcing a five-second violation on an inbounds. Chloe Kerr took advantage of the turnover with a slick score down low, pulling USC within three at 17-14 entering the final eight minutes. Morghan Medlock then evened things up with a 3-pointer at 7:40, locking the teams at 17-17. Nicole Berberet hit her first career 3-pointer to give USC its first lead since the first two minutes of play, pushing the Trojans up 20-17. Medlock followed with a jumper, and USC held a 22-17 edge with six minutes remaining in the half. Cal was slipping into a scoring slump that extended for a full five minutes until the Bears scored in the paint to make it 22-19 at 5:20. A pair of free throws from Ashley Walker cut the score to 22-21 USC. Cal grabbed back the lead with another offensive rebound and putback, keeping the Trojans behind on the boards 18-9. Kerr followed up a Bear basket with a hook shot in the paint, but Walker hit two free throws and Devanei Hampton added one for a 28-24 Cal lead. Kerr scored again, leaving Cal with a 28-26 halftime lead.

Murphy opened the half with a three for the Trojans to bounce them back into the lead 29-28. Walker became the first player in the game to hit double figures after hitting her sixth and seventh free throws to pull Cal up 34-31. Kerr and Nadia Parker both produced in the paint for the Women of Troy as USC worked to a 37-34 lead at 12:40. Natasha Vital hit a three for Cal to end USC's 6-0 scoring run, tying it at 37-37. A Lauren Greif 3-pointer pushed Cal up 40-37, prompting Parker to slip in another score in the paint. Murphy became USC's first player to hit double figures with a layup at 9:00, cutting Cal's edge to 42-41. A Cal technical foul and ensuing USC free throws tied up the game for the fifth time at 44-44 at 7:50. Cal held a one-point lead at 48-47 entering the final five minutes before Greif hit a three to get the Bears up 51-47. Cal managed to pull away in the next stretch, taking its largest lead of the game at 57-47 with 2:08 on the clock. Two Bear free throws put the Trojans behind 59-48 until Murphy managed a layup at 1:20. She ended up fouling out at 1:11, and USC was only able to hit one last long 3-pointer from the hands of Hagiya to wind up with a 62-53 USC loss.

After the holidays, USC heads off on its first Pac-10 road trip with a visit to Washington. The Trojans face the Huskies at 7 p.m. on Dec. 29, then move on to Pullman to fast Washington State at 12 p.m. on Dec. 31.

No. 15 California 62, USC 53
CAL 28 - 34 -- 62
USC 26 - 27 -- 53

GAME NOTES:
• Shay Murphy scored in double figures for the 37th straight game.
• Chloé Kerr scored in double figures for the 14th straight game.
• Simone Jelks had a career-high 7 rebounds.
• USC's 29.7 percent shooting percentage is a season low.

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