BERKELEY -- Yes, it was Senior Night at Haas Pavilion, and California sent off its seniors -- Nick Kerr, Brenden Glapion and Tyrone Wallace -- in a big way, with an historic 87-65 win over visiting USC that marked the program's seventh win in a row, and its first undefeated season at home since the 1959-60 season (and second time ever running the table at home), in front of 11,858.
But, it was freshman Jaylen Brown -- who, despite protestations that he has not yet thought of his NBA future ("It didn't even cross my mind," he said) is likely playing in his final game at Haas -- who stole the show.
With 3.8 seconds left, and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr in the front row -- with his wife Margot, and Cal volleyball-playing daughter Maddie, all in the house for Cal senior Nick -- Brown sprinted the full length of the floor, to his right side, curled along the baseline and spun in a lefty lay-in just as the buzzer expired.
"That was an amazing play; he's a track star, I guess," Wallace said. "I thought that was a great play. Coach let me take the ball out, I knew we were going to give it to Jaylen and let him use his speed."
Martin said that Brown is the fastest straight-line player on the team. "When he's going full-speed, it's hard to get in front of him without fouling," head coach Cuonzo Martin said.
"I had no idea I ran into Nick's dad. I was just trying to make the lay-up, as I switched from right hand to left, so I'll have to apologize to him later." Brown said. "I'm pretty comfortable with [going full-court] because I do it all the time in transition."
It was the money shot, in more ways than one. The shot made a not-very-subtle point: At this time next year, Brown will be in the NBA, likely playing against Kerr's Warriors, unless they trade up into Lottery Pick real estate.
"To finish 18-0 in a league of this magnitude, the guys did a great job setting the tone from start to finish," Martin said. "There was a lot of emotion, but we settled down and played some good basketball."
The win was the sixth 20-point victory of the season for the Bears, and marked the 11th time that Cal had tallied at least 40 in the first half.
Brown finished with a team-high 18 points (tied with fellow freshman Ivan Rabb -- another likely NBA Lottery pick) on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc, with eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Rabb finished 5-of-10 shooting, and 8-of-10 from the free throw line, with 10 rebounds. for his ninth double-double of the season.
"Everybody's focused. Everybody's playing togehter, as hard as we can, for each other," Rabb said. "We want to continue to do that. I hope we have a long season ahead of us. We're just done at home."
Earlier in the first half, Brown hit a three, then notched a steal and drew a foul, draining one of two from the free throw line to push Cal's advantage, as the Bears built up a 14-0 run, with a 5-of-7 mark at the free throw line during that stretch, and a 4-of-7 mark from the field.
During that run, USC (19-10, 8-8 in Pac-12) went 0-for-7 from the field, and after being stymied in the paint to the tune of a 22-8 tally to start the game, Cal (21-8, 11-5) outscored the Trojans 10-0 in the post for the rest of the half. On th game, USC still held an edge, 42-36, in the paint, but the Bears forced 12 USC turnovers, and scored 17 points off of them, while turning the ball over 10 times themselves, on which USC scored 11 points.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1646861-big-recruiting-cro...Rabb was far more aggressive than he's been all season, with two dunks in the first half -- and one particularly impressive one-handed slam off a dart of an entry pass from Wallace was waved off -- as well as a step-back jumper against Nikola Jovanovic, and seven rebounds, to go along with nine points on 3-of-6 shooting, as Cal ran off the 14-0 run after a 26-26 tie at the 8:18 mark.
"I think the biggest thing with him is trusting his shot," Martin said of Rabb, "being consistent, and having the confidence to do it. You have to be ready to make plays. He has to feel good when he makes a decision on the floor."
Cal gave up 11 second-chance points in the first half, and seven offensive rebounds, but, from the beginning of that 14-0 run through the end of the game, USC tallied three offensive rebounds and three second-chance points.
"We started getting stops," Wallace said of what changed after the game was knotted up at 26-26. "They got some easy lay-ups, and Jovanovich had 14 early in the first half, but we were able to slow him down, and we sat down. The last eight minutes of the first half, they scored two points. When we're getting stops like that, we're really hard to beat."
"After eight, 10 minutes in the first half, we really settled down and played some good basketball," Martin said. 'The quickness of their guards, it's something we don't see a lot in practice. It's hard to simulate that."
Rabb started the second half off with a dunk, off a jump-stop drive and pass from Brown, and then it was Brown who kept the ride going, as he hit a completely clean three from the left wing in front of his own bench.
With 17:36 left in the game, Rabb hit a step-back pull-up jumper again against Jovanovic on the left wing, as if the 6-foot-10 USC big man wasn't even there, putting Cal up, 51-32, as the Bears opened up the stanza on a 16-6 run.
After that, the Bears continued their hot three-point shooting, with a Jordan Mathews three -- his second of the game -- following a first half in which Jabari Bird hit his first two three-point attempts. Mathews then hit another trey at 15:17 to give the Bears a 57-36 lead. As if that wasn't enough, with 14:41 to go, Mathews drained another triple from the left wing, putting Cal up, 60-36 and bringing the sell-out crowd at Haas Pavilion to its feet.
Mathews had just three points at halftime, but finished with 17, and was among five Bears who scored in double figures. Mathews' four three-pointers on the night give him 187 for his career, fourth on the school's all-time list. Portland Trailblazer Allen Crabbe is third, with 209. It was the seventh time this season that Mathews has connected on at least four treys in a game. He now has a career total of 1,121 points, 34th all-time behind Harper Kamp (1,133).
As Cal started the half hitting 6 of its first 10 shots, USC went 2-of-9, and Chimezie Metu finally got his first two points -- both on free throws. Metu and fellow Trojans post mainstay Bennie Boatwright went a combined 0-for-10 in the first half, as USC built their impressive points-in-the-paint advantage off of lay-ups and baseline drives. Once the Bears started scoring in bunches down low, Metu and Boatwright -- who had two and three fouls, respectively -- could not defend the powerful Brown and the determined Rabb.
Boatwright drew his fourth foul as Mathews drove the lane with 14:08 to go, exiting the game in favor of Jovanovic as Mathews hit one of two, and Rabb drew Metu's third foul with 13:34 to go, draining both of his tries from the charity stripe.
Jovanovich -- who finished the game 10-of-16 for a team-high 21 points -- returned the favor, drawing Rabb's third foul with 13:18 left.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1646980-wallace-were-not-d...With 8:47 to go, Boatwright fouled out while trying to defend yet another Rabb two-handed slam, and Rabb sunk both free-throw tries, giving the Bears a 71-46 lead. A full-court feed from Brown to Mathews for the lay-in upped that margin to 73-46 with 8:09 to go, for Cal's largest lead of the game at that point.
Wallace, making sure he was active on Senior Night, delivered a nifty Eurostep lay-up with just under 12 minutes left, to put the Bears up by 21. Wallace dished out six assists, pulled down five rebounds, went just 6-fo-11 from the floor, facilitated much more than he has in quite some time, including two crisp post entry passes to Rabb. Wallace now has 1,568 points in his career, good for ninth on Cal's career scoring list, passing Brian Hendrick (1990-93) and his 1,556 points. With 419 career assists, Wallace moved up to seventh on the Bears' career assist list. NBA-er Jorge Gutierrez is sixth with 423. Sunday also marked Wallace's 125th career game, which is tied for ninth in school history with Theo Robertson (2006-10).
Cal had 16 assists on 31 field goals, going 31-of-65 from the floor, and 10-of-28 from three, with Mathews finishing with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-9 from long distance.
With 6:20 left, Wallace put the perfect bow on his Senior Night, when he drove on the left wing, vaulted up over Jovanovic and finished with a left-handed slam dunk, illiciting a roar from the Haas Pavilion crowd, and starting a chant of his name from The Bench. Just over one minute later, he hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to give the Bears a 28-point lead -- the largest of the game. He exited with 2:53 to go in the game, replaced by Stephen Domingo, and left to cheers and a standing ovation.
"To be here these last four years has been great," Wallace said. "I've learned a lot, I've grown a lot. The basketball team and being yourself at Cal has shaped me into a nice young man. All the experiences here, at Haas, at Cal, something I'll never forget, in particular these last two years. This coaching staff believes in me and they trust in me. Playing with these guys every day, it's fun out there ... These are always going to be my brothers, but we still have got business to handle. My time here is not really over. We're not done."
Wallace spoke with the coach who recruited him -- Mike Montgomery -- on Saturday. While Montgomery couldn't make the game, he told Wallace he was proud of who he'd become, and that he was the player he recruited him to be.
Bird woke up from his second-half slumber (0-for-2 over the first 16 minutes) to make a coast-to-coast run with just over three minutes left, ending in a one-handed dunk.
With 2:14 left, Glapion and Kerr each entered the game for the first time on Senior Night, with Glapion taking over at point guard. Kingsley Okoroh replaced Rabb -- also more than likely NBA-bound -- at 1:40, and he received a standing ovation, as the crowd chanted "Four More Years," followed by "One More Year."
"We still have a long season ahead of us; we plan on going deep into the tournament," Rabb said. "Right now, we're focused on this team. I can't control what the future holds."
After two unsuccessful tries, and several chants urging Glapion to get Kerr the ball, he finally hit one from the left corner, setting off the biggest cheer of the night, as his father put his hands in the air on the other end of the court.
"You owe it to these guys who work extremely hard in practice, so when you have opportunities to get games to the scores that it is, they deserve to play," Martin said.
Cal now leads the all-time series against USC 134-132, and has won the last five games at Haas Pavilion.