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Cal & USC Battle To Stay In Top Half Of Pac-10 Standings

GAME NOTES: Mired in a season-long slump, the California Golden Bears will look to get back on track tonight, as they welcome the USC Trojans to Haas Pavilion for a Pac-10 Conference clash.

The Trojans have also been sliding of late, as last Saturday’s 61-51 loss to Oregon marked their third setback in four games. USC now sits a 5-7 in Pac-10 action, and has posted just a 1-4 league road mark heading into tonight’s showdown.

California has now dropped three consecutive games to fall to 6-7 in league play. The mini slump comes directly on the heels of season-long four-game win streak. The Golden Bears are 4-2 in Pac-10 home games this season.

With respect to the all-time series, tonight’s matchup marks the 248th meeting between USC and California. The Golden Bears currently hold a 128-119 lead over the Trojans.

Typically the one to turn in a dominating defensive performance, USC was given a taste of its own medicine in Saturday’s loss to Oregon. The Trojans were limited to 19 first half points, as they converted just 8-of-31 field goal attempts over the first 20 minutes of action. For the game, USC shot just 36.8 percent from the floor and 15.8 percent (3-of-19) from three-point range. Forward Nikola Vucevic refused to go quietly. Despite being double and triple teamed for the majority of the night, Vucevic still managed to score 22 points and rip down 16 rebounds, which included seven offensive boards. He was the only Trojan to score in double figures. Typically it is USC that turns in dominating defensive performances. The Trojans sport the best scoring defense in the Pac-10 (62.9 ppg) and the second-best field goal percentage defense (41.4 percent). They are 9-0 on the year when holding opponents to less than 60 points. On the offensive end, the Trojans manage 66.4 ppg, as Vucevic leads the team in scoring (16.9 ppg) and rebounding 10.1 rpg).

California last took the court this past Saturday, falling 75-71 to Washington State to suffer its third straight defeat. The Golden Bears showed determination though. battling the Cougars down to the wire. Guard Jorge Gutierrez, who scored all of his team-high 19 points in the second half, missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with three seconds remaining to sink the Bears’ chances. Gutierrez was aided in defeat by Harper Kamp, who scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Jeff Powers, who scored 14 points of 5-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-6 from downtown. Cal was hurt by the absence of third-leading scorer Allen Crabee (12 ppg), who sat out after suffering a blow to the head in the Washington game. Kamp paces the squad at 14.9 ppg, while Gutierrez adds 13.8 ppg and has handed out a team-high 109 assists. The Bears score 71.7 ppg, but negate that effort by allowing 71.9 ppg on the defensive end.

USC and California already met once this season, with the Bears earning a slim 68-66 victory. It is likely that Cal will complete the season sweep tonight, utilizing homecourt advantage and a superior offense to earn the win.

GAME NOTES: Mired in a season-long slump, the California Golden Bears will look to get back on track tonight, as they welcome the USC Trojans to Haas Pavilion for a Pac-10 Conference clash.

FACTS & STATS: Site: Haas Pavilion (12,000) — Berkeley, California. Television: None. Home Record: USC 10-4, California 9-5. Away Record: USC 2-7, California 3-5. Neutral Record: USC 1-1, California 1-2. Conference Record: USC 5-7, California 6-7. Series Record: California leads, 128-119.

Thursday, February 17th, 10:30 p.m. (et)

California 71, USC 65