It was fitting that the Cal cheerleaders danced to the hit song “Umbrella” at halftime because four minutes into the second half, UCLA was raining shots from all sides of the court.
Josh Shipp’s three-pointer with 16:30 left was the last of four consecutive long-distance shots to open the half and it catapulted the Bruins to a 88-66 win at the Staples Center in what was a defensive statement against the very team that took them to the final buzzer five days earlier.
Darren Collison led four Bruins in double figures with 19 points while Josh Shipp chipped in with 18 in a rout that was seemingly over by halftime when the Bruins had a 14-point lead, 39-25.
“The last time we played against Cal we didn’t play nearly as well as we should have played. This time it was more about us and our preparation as a team,” Collison said.
While the Bruins needed a miracle shot from Shipp with 1.5 seconds remaining to win that hard-fought comeback on March 8, they needed no such luck against Cal as their defense forced the Bears into 18 turnovers (13 in the first half) while converting that into 20 points.
And when they weren’t racing up the court, they slowed down to run a basketball clinic – hitting wide open shots and finding the open man for easy lay-ups. The team led by as many as 32 which gave head coach Ben Howland a chance to use his bench down the stretch to give a little shine to guys like Mustafa Abdul-Hamid and Chace Stanback (7 points).
All in all, the team shot 53.3 percent from the field, including a blistering 56 percent on three-pointers (14-25).
For Shipp, who went 6-for-10 from the field, it was refreshing to see him shoot the ball with confidence once again after being mired in a shooting slump over the past weeks.
“It’s a new season for me,” Shipp said.
UCLA will now face cross-town rival USC at 6 p.m. tomorrow night in the first of two semifinal games. With both teams fully healthy, it will indeed be a battle for Los Angeles pride and in SC’s case, a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
USC 59, Arizona St. 55 – O.J. Mayo led the way with 23 points and Taj Gibson chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds as the Trojans defeated the Sun Devils in their quarterfinal match at the Staples Center.
“Those two are playing as well as anyone in the country,” head coach Tim Floyd said, “I’m proud of this win and I’m proud of my guys.”
Defense was the story as the Trojans (21-10) held Arizona State was held without a field goal over the final 9:35 of the second half. But neither team shot the ball well as the Sun Devils shot 35.3 percent (18-for-51) from the field while the Trojans shot 42.9 percent, including 6-for-18 on three-pointers
The final minute had some controversy as with 17 seconds left, an apparent tip-dunk from Sun Devils forward Jeff Pendergraph that should have tied the game at 57 was instead called as an over-the-back foul that gave the Trojans two free throws to put the game away.
Freshman guard James Harden led the Sun Devils with 16 points despite constant pressure from Trojans guard Daniel Hackett throughout the game.