Cal's Allen Crabbe had another big game with 27 points, but the Bears' guard with the sweet outside shot did his work from inside the three-point line in Saturday's much-needed 72-64 victory over USC, allowing the big three-point shots to come from two unexpected sources.
The road win in Los Angeles evened Cal's conference record at 1-1 after the Bears (9-5) had lost five of their previous seven games, including Thursday's loss at UCLA. USC fell to 6-9 but stayed close throughout Saturday's game.
Crabbe, the Pac-12's leading scorer at 21.4 points a game, took just three three-point shots, making one. It's the third straight game in which he has taken no more than three three-pointers after taking four or more in each of the first 11 games. Defenses these days are attempting to crowd him on the perimeter to prevent him from doing long-range damage, and the low point came when Crabbe went 0-for-8 on threes in the Dec. 15 loss to Creighton. That has been sound defensive strategy against Crabbe in the past, but Crabbe thwarted it against USC by hitting 8 of 9 two-point shots and getting to the foul line, hitting all eight of his free throws.
The big three-pointers were provided by freshman Tyrone Wallace, who had been in a shooting slump since becoming a starter, and Jeff Powers, who has played very little this season.
Wallace had been just 1-for-9 on three pointers in his three previous games, but hit 2 of 3 against the Trojans - and they were big. The first came with 4:36 left and gave the Bears a four-point lead, and the second game with 1:15 remaining and virtually clinched the victory by giving the Bears a 66-58 advantage.
Powers had played more than seven minutes in only two previous games this season, and had not played at all in four of them. And he probably would not been given playing time Saturday were it not for the fact that Brandon Smith (concussion) and Ricky Kreklow (foot) were unavailable.
But Powers hit both his three-point shots on Saturday, and his second one, which came with 53 seconds left in the first half, gave Cal a lead it never lost.
For the game, Cal was an impressive 5-for-8 on three-pointers, which is five more three-pointers than the Bears had made in their previous two games combined.
See the San Francisco Chronicle game story here, and see the Oakland Tribune game story here.