Thursday, March 12, 2009
Final: USC 79, Cal 75 -- Floyd vs. Randle
(Cal coach Mike Montgomery (left) addresses the media following the 79-75 loss with Patrick Christopher looking on)
By far the best game of the tournament turned heated in the final seconds when Cal guard Jerome Randle shoved USC coach Tim Floyd after making a turnover with under 3 seconds left. Daniel Hackett had just put the Trojans ahead 77-75 with two free throws with 3.8 seconds left and Randle bobbled a pass from Theo Robertson out of bounds. Randle chased the ball out of bounds and pushed Floyd in frustration as he was barking orders to his USC players.
Floyd handled the situation with class after the game, following an apology from Randle, who missed two of three free throws that could have tied the game at 72 with 1:14 left. Dwight Lewis responded with a critical 3-pointer for a 75-70 lead and Cal then rallied with a Theo Robertson 3-pointers, a defensive stop and then a Randle runner for the tie.
USC's Hackett posted up the smaller Randle, who got a foul call by holding Hackett's wrist, not exactly a butcher foul to decide a game, but it was a foul.
Cal played like an NCAA Tournament team in the second half, but USC played like one throughout the game, which has to serve as a source of frustration for USC fans because the Trojans are likely likely headed for the NIT.
USC outrebounded Cal 53-27, most of those was pure desire. DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson equaled Cal's rebounding totals themselves.
"I could have told you the way they were going to come out," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of USC. "I could have told you they were going to come out with a chip on their shoulder. I could have told you they were going to come out and be physical and they were going to try to manhandle us and run us off and they did precisely that. It just took us a long time (to warm up) and it's happened on a number of occasions. Most of those times we bounced back and won games. It's something, I can't explain it."
Cal shot 56 percent in the second half compared with 41 for USC, but the Trojans always seemed to get the key rebound or loose ball, and that again was desire. Taj Gibson was a monster in the paint and Cal had no answer. Gibson is 24 years old and could dominate the Pac-10 again next year if he returned, and I'm sure the other nine coaches don't want to see him back.
He finished with 21 points, 16 rebounds and hit five of his six free throws. USC has Sweet 16 talent and I was quite impressed with DeRozan, who over matched Jorge Gutierrez and was able to get his shot off at will. He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. My key player was Lewis and his 3-pointer was pivotal because it turned a two-point lead into a five-point lead.
"We've been practicing hard all week," Hackett said. "We just carried that intensity into the game."
Said Floyd about Randle: "He's a good kid. He played a great game."
Randle -- 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting
Christopher -- 15 on 5-for-15 shooting
Gutierrez -- 14 on 5-for-10
Jordan Wilkes -- 4 points and one rebound in 14 minutes.
Gibson -- 21 points, 16 rebounds
DeRozan -- 17 points, 11 rebounds
Hackett -- 15 points, seven assists .
USC -- 22 offensive rebounds.