This was the way it was supposed to be the first time.
After defeating USC by only four points just before New Year’s, the Cal men’s basketball team on Thursday night made the Trojans look like a team that has won only once since the start of the year.
The Bears turned a six-point halftime lead into an absolute blowout in the second period, crushing USC, 75-49, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
“We started playing hard in the second half,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “I don’t think we played hard enough in the first half.”
The 35-29 halftime margin was a bit deceptive. Cal (19-6, 9-3 in the Pac-12) shot 50 percent from the field and had nearly twice as many rebounds as the Trojans (6-19, 1-11). USC scored just enough points to keep it close, thanks to six Cal turnovers that led to nine Trojan points.
Harper Kamp committed his second personal foul at the 13-minute mark, leaving the Bears without their senior forward for the remainder of the period.
USC actually led on and off until 6:24 was left on the clock, when Cal went on a quick 8-2 run to take the lead for good. Allen Crabbe, who led all scorers with 19 points, had 13 in the half to keep the Bears in good position to snag their third conference road game. The L.A. native sunk his first five shots, scoring 11 of the squad’s first 17 points.
The second half was all blue and gold.
Three minutes into the period, Cal went on a 13-2 run in a span of nearly four minutes to extend the lead to 17. Kamp made up for lost time to tally 14 in the half. He finished an efficient 9-for-11 for 18 points in just 19 minutes of play.
“Harper shot the ball well,” Montgomery said. “He was successful at being the second post down low. He was a huge part of that strong second half.”
Actually, all the Cal players were efficient offensively. Crabbe, primarily a jump shooter, shot 8-for-12. The Bears were 55.7 percent from the field overall.
Maurice Jones led USC with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but the diminutive guard did not get much help.
The rest of his teammates shot a combined a combined 13-of-49 (26.5 percent). In fact, in the middle of the half, the Trojans went three and a half minutes without scoring a single point.
USC has been decimated by injuries, with three of what would have been their starting five already out for the season. It’s no surprise, then, that the squad did not score a single bench point.
Even though the game was out of reach early in the half, Montgomery did not go that deep into his bench. Robert Thurman and Brandon Smith both played double-digit minutes. Bak Bak made three baskets in eight minutes of play. Nevertheless, four of Cal’s starters played over 30 minutes.
David Kravish played a team-high 33 minutes. Then again, that gave the freshman forward enough time to pull down a whopping 18 rebounds, the most of any Cal player this season.