USC basketball: After deadline...
It's all over at the Galen Center this Saturday night. USC fell to California, 68-66, in a tight game that wasn't over until USC junior guard Jio Fontan missed a three-point jumper at the buzzer.
USC was able to stay within one point in the final 10 seconds, as California missed four of its final six free throws. But California's Allen Crabbe, a freshman guard and former star at Los Angeles Price High, made one free throw with 5.9 seconds left and Fontan's miss ended it.
One play USC fans will be talking about is the intentional foul call with 3:06 left in the game. California was leading, 58-57, when Fontan wrapped up California forward Harper Kamp in what appeared to be an ill-advised tackle.
Initially, it was called a foul, but the referees took a long look at the courtside monitors and decided it was an intentional foul.
Kamp made both of his free throws and California forward Mark Sanders-Frison made a jumper on the ensuing possession to put California up by five points.
USC Coach Kevin O'Neill didn't bemoan that fact, though. He just said the Trojans didn't play good defense.
"It came down to playing awful, awful defense in the last five minutes," he said. "We had the lead and got scored on four or five times."
One other key fact was the ineffectiveness of USC junior forward Nikola Vucevic, who was hit in the jaw in the first half and never seemed to get over that, finishing with six points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 1:18 to play.
"Let's face it, Nik was ineffective all night," O'Neill said.
Here are some notes and quotes from the game:
--USC senior guard Donte Smith scored a career-high 24 points off the bench, hitting a career-high eight three-pointers, one off the school record set by Anthony Pendleton on Dec. 9, 1987.
--USC fell to 1-7 when trailing at the half this season.
--USC's 22 first-half points were its second lowest at halftime this season. The Trojans scored 20 in the first half against Kansas on Dec. 18.
USC Coach Kevin O'Neill:
"That's an unfortunate loss for us. We fought hard. We didn't play well in the first half."
USC senior guard Donte Smith:
"Coach told me to keep taking good shots. They were just falling in the second half. I was feeling it. But at the end of the day, it was a loss."
California Coach Mike Montgomery:
"I thought our big guys did a nice job down low tonight, especially going up against (Alex) Stepheson and Vucevic, who are solid players. USC is a solid team up and down and they always put up a tough fight. Getting a win here in this building is big for us. We are happy to pull it out after some of the mistakes we made."
Photo: USC guard Jio Fontan tries to score on a scoop shot in the lane against California on Saturday night at the Galen Center. Credit: Christine Cotter / Associated Press