Christopher Bounces Back

After having one of his worst performances of the season against Oregon State, junior guard Patrick Christopher looked to bounce back against USC and help strengthen Cal's hold on an NCAA Tournament bid. When the going became rough, Christopher responded.

After the loss to Oregon State, in which Christopher shot a weak 3-for-15 from the field, the Bears seemingly strong grasp on an NCAA Tournament bid became fairly weaker. As a result, the Bears contest against USC in front of 10,027 at Haas Pavilion became of heightened importance if the Bears wanted to solidify their bubble standing.

Christopher was up for the challenge.

Early in the game, with the score tied at 3, Christopher ran the baseline, took a Jordan Wilkes pass in mid-flight, and finished with a monster slam. The play not only gave the Bears an early lead, but it helped set the tone for Christopher, who connected on his first six shots and finished the first half with 16 points. Yet, despite Christopher's strong effort, the Bears found themselves up only 38-34 at halftime.

In the second half, USC made their adjustments, having guard Daniel Hackett shadow Christopher and keeping the ball out of his hands. As a result, Christopher was frustrated, going only 2-for-8 in the second half. Not only that, but the Trojans fought their way back, enough to tie the game and force overtime.

With the game coming down to an extra five-minute period, the Bears needed a player to step up, to take over in the clutch, to finally end this drama once and for all.

Christopher was up for the challenge.

In the overtime period, Christopher found the same stroke that he had in the first half. With the Bears up by two with 1:15 to go, Christopher hit a jump shot to up the lead to four. After a couple of free throws and clutch shooting from both teams, the Bears found themselves up by one with 17 seconds to play. At this time, Christopher was given the pressured task of inbounding the ball on Cal's own baseline.

With all that was at stake, how would Christopher bounce back?

How about actually bouncing it off an opponent's back.

Yes, Christopher perhaps made the clutch play of the game. Recognizing the opposition with his back to him, Christopher simply bounced the ball off a USC player's back, regained control, and dribbled time off the clock until he was fouled. Christopher then proceeded to make two clutch free throws. A desperate three-point shot from Daniel Hackett fell short at the buzzer, giving Cal their 10th win in conference. It was then that Christopher could reflect on his inbounds play.

"Going into it, I wasn't thinking about [bouncing the ball off of a player's back] at all," said Christopher. "But then, I saw his back."

The rest was history.

Christopher finished the night with a career high 29 points. When the going became tough, he broke through. When the team needed him in an extra period, he continually responded. Coach Mike Montgomery agreed.

"Patrick was very good, obviously," Montgomery said. "That was a very gutsy play at the end."

"It was a gutsy win."

After the win, the Bears have tightened their grip like a noose around their bid for the NCAA Tournament. When history looks back at this possible clinching game, what will people see?

That Patrick Christopher was up for the challenge.

Game Notes

  • Free throws played a big role in the game, as Cal went 24-27 (88.9%) from the charity strike, whereas USC only converted on 16-28 (57.1%)
  • Guard Jerome Randle finished with 15 points and 8 assists. All three of his field goals came from 3-point range.
  • Center Jordan Wilkes left the game with an apparent arm/shoulder injury, but he would return to start the overtime period.

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