USC held a seemingly comfortable 10-point cushion over California at the Galen Center, and the only thing that appeared in doubt was the final score.
Then Cal guard Jerome Randle made a high-arching three-point shot, the Trojans turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions and Golden Bears guard Patrick Christopher had his teammates on the bench celebrating when he made a three-pointer that pulled Cal into a tie with 37 seconds remaining.
The Trojans finally pulled it together in overtime, assembling a 93-89 victory that probably guaranteed them a spot in the NCAA tournament, but it wasn't exactly a how-to guide on playing with a big lead in the final minutes.
"We had some mistakes in the final two minutes of regulation you'd like to have back," USC Coach Tim Floyd said. "We hadn't done that in our spread game all year long."
Cal nearly clawed its way back from an eight-point deficit in the extra period, making it 91-89 on Ryan Anderson's three-pointer with eight seconds to go before Mayo made two free throws to seal the outcome.
It would appear that SC is heading to the tournament but I am not a fan of conference tournaments and if SC has a poor showing it hurt them so I want them to have a strong game and beat Stanford to send a message to the NCAA.
Once again it was O.J. Mayo who really stepped up in the 2nd half and in OT to help seal the deal for SC. Mayo has taken his fair share of criticism for his play on the court but he has really stepped up his game in the past few weeks and we are starting to see just how good he is and how good he will be when he heads to the NBA. But he didn't do it alone as both Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis had 21 points apiece.
In the past coach Floyd has received a ton of criticism (from you-know-where) for his fiery ways on the sideline so it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone when last night he pulled the team together and made his pitch about just what winning this game means.
And it took one final plea from coach Tim Floyd to convince the Trojans what was at stake.
No doubt it came in the form of Floyd's Cajun drawl, but it was relayed succinctly in forward Taj Gibson's Brooklyn-ese.
"As soon as we sat down, Coach said, `Yo, do you want it more? You know this is for the NCAA Tournament, right, dude?"' Gibson said. "We just looked at him and shrugged like we're going to go out there and just leave it on the court again."
This time, USC brought the right formula to the floor and survived for a 93-89 overtime win over California on Thursday night at the Galen Center, likely assuring the Trojans a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Early in the season you could tell that Tim Floyd was a having a bit of a tough time getting through to these players but as the season has progressed the have started to respond and last night was great example of just how far they have come. Saturday's game against Stanford will be a tough one they are sure to be in a foul mood after dropping a close game to the gutties across town (once again it was a bad call by those stellar Pac-10 officials) so they will be looking to get the bad taste of that loss out their mouth at SC's expense. I really feel that SC needs to win this game for number reasons, I just don't see it a s throw away game just because they have a winning record.
On a side note, you have to be pleased with how this team has progressed as the season has gone on. Without any senior leadership they have had a lot to learn and undertake and it hasn't always been pretty to watch. How do you think this team would have looked and performed with some seasoned experience on the floor? Yes, I'm looking at you Gabe Pruitt, AO said it best earlier in the week...Oh Gabe, what could have been.