BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)—Southern California’s 17-point lead had been wiped out and the Trojans appeared on the verge of following their most lopsided loss of the season with their most disheartening.
“There was some doubt creeping in, and why not?” coach Tim Floyd said. “I just told them, ‘You are still tied. Our goal was to come in here down two, down three with 2 minutes to go. We’re in better shape than I thought we’d be in.”’
Daniel Hackett then delivered the biggest play of the game, scoring on a backdoor layup with 16 seconds remaining to help No. 25 USC hang on for a 76-73 victory over California on Saturday.
“It could have been a devastating loss,” Floyd said. “It could have been a self-doubt loss. Instead, it’s a great win.”
Hackett scored four points in the final 1:03 for the Trojans (16-6, 6-3 Pac-10), who bounced back after a 65-50 loss Thursday night at Stanford.
After building a 53-36 lead with 13:11 to go against the Golden Bears (12-9, 4-5), a loss in this game would have been even more painful.
The score was tied at 73 when USC called timeout with 41.7 seconds remaining. Floyd drew up a play for Nick Young, but when that broke down Hackett stepped up. He cut to the basket and scored the go-ahead layup off a pass from Lodrick Stewart.
“The clock was running out, I saw a gap and attacked it hard,” Hackett said. “I was wide open and just made the layup.”
Ryan Anderson missed a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left at the other end. After Young made one free throw, Omar Wilkes was short on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
Stewart scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half to lead USC. Young added 19 points, including 17 in the second half.
“We knew we had to dig down and finish the game out and not give it away,” Stewart said. “It would look really bad to give away a 17-point lead and lose. This is big for us to win on the road.”
Anderson led Cal with 19 points, Wilkes added 14 and Jerome Randle had 12. The Bears have lost three straight games, all to ranked teams.
“We did enough good things in the second half that we can build on that,” Bears coach Ben Braun said. “It’s frustrating because we wanted to come away with a win. That’s tough.”
Stewart shot 7-for-9 in the first half, making four 3-pointers and sparking an 11-0 run that put USC in control. He was one of many Trojans who found their touch after the team had 19 shots blocked and shot 28 percent in the 65-50 loss to Stanford.
But facing a short-handed Golden Bears team that had only two healthy players taller than 6-foot-6 proved much easier than going up against Stanford’s 7-foot freshmen twins Brook and Robin Lopez. USC shot 59 percent for the game, its best result in conference play this season.
The Trojans opened the second half with a 13-4 run, getting two 3-pointers from Gabe Pruitt and another by Young, to open up a 50-34 lead. But the Bears hung close despite playing much of the second half without point guard Ayinde Ubaka, who had cramps.
Cal went on a 16-5 run that featured two 3-pointers by Wilkes and cut USC’s lead to 69-68 on Alex Pribble’s fast-break basket with 3:22 remaining. Theo Robertson’s 3-pointer with 2:14 to go tied the game at 71.
“It seemed like they were making shots from halfcourt,” Young said. “They made a lot of 3s that I don’t think a lot of guys could make.”
Robertson missed a jumper that would have given Cal its first lead since early in the first half. Randle fouled Hackett on the rebound and his two free throws with 1:03 left gave the Trojans the lead. Wilkes’ basket with 46 seconds left tied it again.
“I could tell that they were kind of shocked that we were coming back,” Anderson said. “In previous games we stayed in it and the other team made a run and it was hard for us to catch up. Today we had a run of our own.”
The Bears went on a 13-4 run aided by a technical foul called on USC’s Taj Gibson to take a 17-13 lead midway through the half. But the technical for giving a one-handed push to the face of Taylor Harrison appeared to spark the Trojans more than Cal.
Stewart hit a 3-pointer on USC’s next possession and scored eight points, hitting two more 3s, during an 11-0 run that put the Trojans up 31-22 with 4:03 to go in the half. USC went to the break up 37-30 behind 56 percent shooting, a far cry from the 23 percent first half Thursday against Stanford.