California 71, USC 60
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)—Leon Powe had 22 points and 11 rebounds to wrap up his Pac-10 titles in both categories, and California secured the No. 3 seed in next week’s conference tournament with a 71-60 victory over fading USC on Saturday night.
Ayinde Ubaka scored 17 points and DeVon Hardin had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Golden Bears (18-9, 12-6), who jumped to a big second-half lead and made their free throws down the stretch. Cal earned a rematch with the sixth-seeded Trojans on Thursday in the quarterfinals in Los Angeles.
With the Cal students chanting his name during perhaps his final appearance at Haas Pavilion, Powe clinched the league scoring title after Washington’s Brandon Roy, whose 19.7 points-per-game average trailed Powe’s 19.9 entering the day, managed just 16 points in the Huskies’ win at Arizona.
Powe also got his second conference rebounding title after leading the Pac-10 as a freshman in 2003-04. He’s just the fourth player to lead the Pac-10 in both categories, the same feat accomplished by Arizona State’s Ike Diogu last season.
Despite foul trouble, Powe finished his strong sophomore season in a talent-thin league with more of the pounding inside play that’s turned around Cal’s basketball fortunes.
Lodrick Stewart scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, and Nick Young added 12 points as the Trojans (17-12, 8-10) finished the regular season with six losses in their last eight games. USC had an awful shooting game, going 11:15 between field goals in the second half of an 18-for-60 performance.
After going 8 1/2 minutes without a field goal in the first half, Cal made an 18-4 run in the second half that included points from six players, including six by Powe and five by Hardin. USC managed nothing but free throws between Stewart’s baskets with 16:40 and 5:25 to play, yet still got within 63-54 on Gabe Pruitt’s 3-pointer with 1:04 left before Cal finished it.
Young and Pruitt, who led last-place USC to an upset win at Cal last season, combined for 9-of-26 shooting.
Cal is near the bubble for its first NCAA tournament bid since 2002, but the Bears seem to be in good shape with their 12 conference victories. No Pac-10 team has missed the tournament with at least 11 conference victories since 1993.
Richard Midgley, who started his 96th game, and Rod Benson got warm ovations before their final home games, barring an NIT berth. Powe also probably played his final home game, though he’s considering another year in Berkeley after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
Given the way he dominated the Trojans inside despite double-teams and hard fouls, it’s tough to imagine what challenges still could excite Powe in the Pac-10. Still, the Cal students chanted “One more year!” in the final seconds.