One of the keys outlined in tonight's college basketball matchup between the California Golden Bears and the USC Trojans was who would win the battle in the paint between the bigs. It was Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders-Frison who won the battle, particularly Kamp's duel with the intimidating Nikola Vucevic. Kamp scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and helped foul out Vucevic (who had 10 rebounds but only six points on 2 of 8 shooting). Meanwhile Sanders-Frison (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Alex Stepheson (8 points, 6 boards) battled to a standstill, but it was Kamp's production that put the Bears over the top. Cal managed 26 points in the paint to USC's 22, and that proved to be just enough of a difference.
Other contributors stepped up as well. With Jorge Gutierrez still in a shooting funk, Brandon Smith stepped up and nailed two three pointers, and hit of four of seven from the field en route to a much needed 12 points. Allen Crabbe helped get the offense going early (although he tailed off near the end, partly due to fatigue), finishing with 12 points as well. Bak Bak provided a much needed seven points off the bench and was the catalyst for Cal's 22-6 run to end the first half.
Still, the Trojans had a chance to win at the buzzer. Donte Smith went off, nailing eight field goals, all three pointers. Cal missed four free throws down the stretch, any of which would have probably iced the game, and a crucial Smith turnover with plenty of time left on the shot clock gave the Trojans a chance to cut into a six point deficit. As it was, Jio Fontan got the ball and fired at the end, but his last second shot was partially blocked by Crabbe.
The Bears improve to 10-9 on the season and 3-4 in Pac-10 play, as they won their first ever game at the Galen Center. The Trojans fall to 11-9 and share the same record with Cal in conference.
For more perspective of the game from Cal fans, go to the California Golden Blogs; for perspective from USC fans, head over to Conquest Chronicles.