California 78 - USC 59
SEATTLE – The Golden Bears downed the Trojans 78-59 Friday in the first quarterfinal contest of the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament at KeyArena, giving Cal its 16th consecutive win to advance to its seventh semifinal in as many years.
USC didn’t get on the scoreboard until nearly five minutes into the game. Cal was long gone by then.
Four of Cal’s starting five reached double-digit scoring: Gennifer Brandon (17 points), Afure Jemergibe (15 points), Brittany Boyd (15 points) and Talia Caldwell (12 points). Brandon’s 16 rebounds gave her her 16th double-double of the season. Boyd and Caldwell both were one rebound away from posting double-doubles of their own.
The stats were not as lopsided as one might assume given the final score. Cal shot 36.8 from the floor compared to USC’s 33.3 percent. The Trojans turned over the ball just twice more than their opponent. Cal made only three three-pointers, while USC hit just one.
The game was decided on the boards: Cal outrebounded USC 53-34, including a 22-10 offensive rebound differential. The Bears scored an extra 25 points on second-chance opportunities, while the Trojans capitalized for just seven additional points.
The discrepancy wasn't for lack of banging by USC. The game featured several significant spills and physical play from start to finish.
"USC’s always a physical game, so as a team you always just try to match their physicality but also try to be above it," Gennifer Brandon said. "I knew they were going to try to box me out, so I just tried to slither my way through and be ready ... to go get the ball any way I could."
Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb says she told her team to "play through not getting calls. To play through some physicality from the other team that we knew was coming.
"I’m impressed by them and their ability to battle on the court and to stay mentally strong," she said.
USC freshman Cassie Harberts put up 24 points and six rebounds in the loss, marking her 30th game in double-digit scoring this season.
California faces the winner of Friday’s 2:30 game between six-seed Utah and three-seed UCLA on the Pac-12 Networks. Good as the Golden Bears played on Friday, players still see room for improvement.
"We can always get better," Boyd said.