Southern California used balanced scoring and solid defense to pull away from California in the second half Sunday, earning a 77-59 Pac-12 victory at Galen Center in Los Angeles.
Elijah Stewart and reserve Jonah Mathews each scored 16 points to pace the Trojans (17-6, 8-2), who pulled within a half-game of Arizona for first place in the conference. Five other players chipped in six to nine points apiece.
Marcus Lee led all scorers with 23 and all rebounders with 12 for the Golden Bears (7-15, 1-8), but it wasn’t enough to keep them from falling further into the conference basement. Justice Sueing hit for 14 points and Darius McNeill added 13.
USC led just 31-29 at the half, but put its stamp on the second half pretty quickly. Stewart drained a 3-pointer at the 16:19 mark to cap an 8-2 spurt that made it a 39-31 game. Chimezie Metu dunked with 13:56 left to give the Trojans their first double-figure lead at 44-34.
Cal made one more push, edging within 46-41 with 11:53 remaining on a rare five-point possession. Lee converted a 3-point play and McNeill hit two foul shots after Metu was whistled for a technical, his fourth personal foul.
But USC ran off and hid at that point. Mathews canned a 3 just over two minutes later to restore a 10-point advantage and Jordan McLaughlin, who dished out 10 assists, added a 3-ball on the next trip to make it 60-47. The margin reached 22 points in garbage time.
The Golden Bears got off to a quick start for the second time on their Los Angeles road swing. They led UCLA 27-14 in the first half Thursday night before fading, and established a 16-8 edge at the second media timeout in this one.
However, the Trojans reeled them in over the half’s remainder and left for the locker room with a two-point edge after Mathews converted a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining.
Cal was held to 38.6 percent shooting from the field and committed 20 turnovers, 14 in the first half.
--Field Level Media