California 62, USC 58
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Leon Powe led all Pac-10 players in scoring and was second in rebounding going into Thursday night’s conference opener. Both elements came in handy for the California Golden Bears against streaking Southern Cal.
Powe had 20 points and 14 rebounds in a 62-58 victory that snapped the Trojans’ nine-game winning streak. Ayinde Ubaka scored seven of his nine points in the final 4:53 for the Bears, who won a conference opener on the road for the first time since 1982 against Stanford.
“It’s a great accomplishment. That shows how tough this conference is,” said Cal’s head coach Ben Braun, whose team was 6-12 in Pac-10 play last season. “For any team in a tough conference, when you can go and nail down a win on the road in your opener, that’s a statement. I don’t care where you are or who you’re playing.”
Richard Midgley and Omar Wilkes each had 11 points for the Bears (7-3), who never trailed in the game while winning on the road for the first time in four tries this season. They are 3-7 in Pac-10 openers since Braun became head coach.
Nick Young and Loderick Stewart each scored 16 points and Gabe Pruitt added 13 for the Trojans (9-3), who were 5-13 in the Pac-10 last season.
Powe scored nine points in a 3:54 span to help build Cal’s lead to as many as 11 with 6:41 left in the first half. Pruitt converted two turnovers by Wilkes into breakaway dunks in the final 27 seconds of the half, allowing USC to slice a seven-point deficit to 32-29.
“That was probably the only time we made consecutive mistakes,” Braun said.
The Trojans, who won both meetings with Cal last season by an average margin of 18 points, got as close as 38-36 on Stewart’s two free throws with 14:48 to play. But Cal responded with eight straight points to restore their double-digit lead, and the Trojans missed five consecutive free throws.
“We had a lot of unforced errors and we missed free throws,” said USC coach Tim Floyd. “We got outrebounded, but we expected to be in trouble in that area.”
Pruitt’s 3-pointer pulled USC within 60-58 with 7.2 seconds left, and the Trojans had a chance to tie it when Powe missed a free throw. But Pruitt was called for traveling on USC’s next possession and Ubaka’s two free throws clinched it with 2.2 seconds on the clock.
“We stayed together and had contributions from everybody,” Powe said. “That’s what we need on the road, especially against a team that was coming in that hot.”