USC cruises to sixth straight win over struggling Cal
LOS ANGELES (AP) USC coach Andy Enfield doesn't let his players check their phones at halftime, which is why he was able to play a joke on Elijah Stewart.
Stewart was 0-for-4 from the field against Cal, and Enfield told him that all his former coaches from nearby Westchester High School and his family and friends would leave if he didn't start playing better.
It was all in jest, but Stewart answered. Stewart scored all 16 of his points in the second half and Jonah Mathews also added 16 to lead USC to a 77-59 victory over Cal on Sunday at USC.
''He's a very sarcastic person, that's what I've learned over my four years here,'' Stewart said of Enfield. ''My teammates came and rallied me up. Screamed at me some. Told me to shoot it. When the first one went in, my confidence came back.''
USC (17-6, 8-2 Pac-12) has won six consecutive games and remained in second place in the conference standings behind No. 11 Arizona (8-1). The Trojans have won eight of their last nine games.
Cal (7-15, 1-8) is mired in a funk as its lost eight consecutive games, something the Bears haven't done since 1992.
''The first half was promising,'' Cal coach Wyking Jones said. ''There were a few turnovers we could have scored on, but we have to be able to put together a 40-minute game. You have (Chimezie) Metu down on the block. They are strong and athletic. They're a tough team to score against.''
The Bears got outscored by 16 points in the second half.
Mathews made a 3-pointer from the baseline nine seconds before halftime to give USC a 31-29 lead at the break. Cal turned the ball over 14 times in the first half and USC scored 17 points off those miscues.
USC got hot to start the second half as Stewart made back-to-back 3-pointers for a 39-31 lead and the Trojans never looked back. Later, Mathews again made consecutive 3s from each corner as part of an 8-0 run that gave USC a 62-47 lead with 8:53 left.
Stewart made 4 of 5 shots in the second half - all on 3-pointers.
''He's been doing that for four years now,'' Enfield said. ''He's a great shooter when his feet are set, and we need him to do that. It's a big part of our offense, big part of our team. You can all see when he's making shots he's very effective. It usually means we're going on some kind of run.''
Cal's Marcus Lee scored a game-high 23 points, 17 of which came in the second half.
The Bears leading scorer, Don Coleman, didn't play for the second consecutive game. He was suspended for Cal's game at UCLA on Thursday for a violation of team rules.
BUILDUP TO UCLA
USC's next game is Saturday at UCLA, so the Trojans have a week to prepare for their rivalry game. USC has a two-game advantage on third-place UCLA in the Pac-12 standings.
Stewart, a senior, knows what to expect and this will be his final time playing at Pauley.
''People are going to talk about our mammas, people are going to talk about our grandmas,'' Stewart said. ''I don't remember one pleasant time ever going to Pauley. You pull up and there's a big line of blue waiting at your bus. You have to walk through getting heckled. They've made it a culture there. We've got to bring the same energy.''
THE WIN STREAK
USC is grooving in the Pac-12. The Trojans lost three consecutive games and four of six in December, but they've turned things around. The six-game win streak has given USC plenty of swagger.
''We're playing good basketball,'' Enfield said. ''We're a 55-foot buzzer beater away from being in first place in the league but we're 8-2. It's a compliment and credit to our players.''
Cal: The Bears needed a victory to stop their slump and regain a measure of confidence for their young team but it didn't happen.
USC: The Trojans are having a January to remember - where they're 7-1 - and have a big game at first-place Arizona on Feb. 10.
Cal: Hosts Oregon on Thursday.
USC: plays at UCLA on Saturday.
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|34.4||Min. Per Game||34.4|
|12.8||Pts. Per Game||12.8|
|7.6||Ast. Per Game||7.6|
|4.0||Reb. Per Game||4.0|
|35.6||Field Goal %||47.1|
|27.1||Three Point %||42.7|
|76.3||Free Throw %||74.1|
|Defensive rebound by Devin Fleming||8.0|
|Field Goals||22-57 (38.6%)||28-63 (44.4%)|
|3-Pointers||4-17 (23.5%)||10-21 (47.6%)|
|Free Throws||11-14 (78.6%)||11-13 (84.6%)|
|C. O'Bannon Jr.||0||0||0||0/1||0/0||0/0||0||3||0||0||0||0||0|