LOS ANGELES -- With 5.2 seconds left, California sophomore forward Ivan Rabb breathed deep, closed his eyes, and stepped to the free throw line. For a moment, it was March 28, 2015. There were 0.8 seconds left on the clock, and instead of playing in the Galen Center against USC, Rabb was playing at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, for the state title against Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei.
Tied 64-64, Rabb air-balled his first shot, and then found the net on the second, sealing a 65-64, Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd win.
Rabb opened his eyes on Sunday at the Galen Center, and stared at the rim, waiting for his first shot after being fouled by Chimezie Metu.
"I've been here before," Rabb said to himself. As soon as he reminded himself of that fact, Rabb said, "I just relaxed."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1744328-bttv-ivan-rabb-say...Cal trailed the Trojans 73-72, and after a whiplash-inducing 39:54 that had already seen 12 lead changes, Rabb had the chance to finish. Unlike that night two years ago, he needed to hit both tries. He did.
As if that wasn't enough, Rabb -- capping off a 17-point, eight-rebound effort -- came up with a final block on leading USC scorer Jordan McLaughlin (20 points on 7-of-16 shooting) in the final second to put the game away.
"Last play of the game, we wanted to corral that thing to Ivan, and he made a play on the ball," said head coach Cuonzo Martin. "McLaughlin was full-speed, you can't touch him, so get him to the rim, where only Ivan can make the play, and then box out."
"I came out of the time out with a full head of steam," McLaughlin said. "I tried to get a layup and hoped to get a basket or a foul. I saw a wide-open lane. They closed it."
"That last play, there was a lot of contact at the rim," said USC coach Andy Enfield. "You can't ask for more. Jordan could have easily scored or gone to the foul line, but he didn't."
The Bears (11-5, 2-2 in Pac-12) came out on top 74-73 despite a 7-for-12 three-point night by the Trojans, four Cal players ending the game with four or more fouls, and despite the not hitting a field goal for the final 2:18. What the Bears did get was a 10-for-21 night from the free throw line by USC, which came in shooting 74.5% from the charity stripe.
"That's surprising, because they're a really good free-throw shooting team, so obviously, there was a lot of prayer going on, on my end," Martin joked. "We were just sound enough to be there, stay locked in and make enough plays."
Cal got off to an inauspicious start against the Trojans (15-2, 2-2). The Bears gave up a lay-up, a turnover and a foul by Rabb, and pulling Kingsley Okoroh within 36 seconds, in favor of Kameron Rooks, all within the first minute of play.
While Cal pulled down 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, piling up the shot attempts -- 38 to USC's 27 -- the shots the Trojans did have were plenty, as they hit 55.6% of them before the break, including a half-court bank by McLaughlin to tie things at 36 before the break.
After going down 5-0, the Bears went on a 13-3 run, but then the Trojans' Metu took over, scoring 10 straight points for USC during a 10-5 run from 8:45 to 6:16. A pair of free throws by De'Anthony Melton after a Flagrant 1 body check by Dontae Coleman (12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 22 minutes) gave the Trojans a 26-25 lead, but that didn't last long in a seesaw period that saw five lead changes and six points at which the game was tied.
Neither team started out well from the free throw line, going a combined 5-of-13 before the break.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1744332-bttv-cuonzo-martin...Cal came out firing after halftime, taking a eight-point lead thanks to three-pointers by Charlie Moore (16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 3 assists) and Jabari Bird (12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, team-high eight rebounds), as well as a nifty duck-under play by Rabb in the low post to escape Metu for a reverse lay-in underneath.
Rabb put an exclamation point on the 14-7 run to start the half with an and-one alley-oop dunk from Moore with 15:37 to go. Cal scored on five of its first six possessions of the half, with the only non-score being a turnover.
But, just as he was in the first half, Metu keyed a comeback run by the Trojans, with a rebound, a dunk and a steal in just under a minute to bring the Trojans to within one, down 51-50. USC capped a 10-0 run with a steal on a Moore pass bound for Rabb, and then a three by Shaqquan Aaron at 12:06, giving the Trojans their first lead in 12:14 of game time.
During that 10-0 run, Cal scoreless against USC's 2-3 zone defense for 4:01.
With Rabb and his 14 points on the bench with four fouls (trying to gain position down low against Metu), the Bears went to a four-guard lineup, and seemed to break out of their shooting funk. Back-to-back three-pointers by Bird and Moore tied things at 61-61 with 7:34 to go, with the Trojans still in zone.
With four players in foul trouble, Martin had no choice but to put Rabb back in, and play zone defense. After Rabb hit 1-of-2 at the line thanks to a foul by Metu in man, he came up with a key block down low on McLaughlin. But, with Cal up 72-71, USC forced a shot clock violation with 44 seconds to go, giving the Trojans the ball.
A foul by Okoroh on McLaughlin sent him to the line with a chance to take the lead, but he missed both free throws with 29 seconds left. McLaughlin went 3-of-8 at the line, and had not missed as many as two free throws in a game in over a month. On the offensive rebound, though, Moore committed his third turnover of the game, with an ill-advised outlet pass up the near sideline. That turned into a lay-up for McLaughlin, after two tries and a block by Bird, giving the Trojans a one-point lead with 14.1 seconds to go.
"We got our bigs in foul trouble, Ivan got in foul trouble, and their guards did a good job with keeping us at bay," Martin said.