Bob Cantu’s USC Trojans entered Haas Pavilion in Berkeley winners of four-straight games. And as Conquest Chronicle’s Shotgun Spratling pointed out on Twitter, they had the opportunity to win five straight conference games with three coming on the road for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. Twenty-five minutes into the game, it looked like the Trojans would be able to complete that feat.
USC led by as many as 15 points in the second half, though with a 47-34 lead, the game changed during a media timeout following a Cal foul of Dewayne Dedmon.
Cal head coach Mike Montgomery then yelled at his team as they circled him during the timeout, before giving star shooting guard Allen Crabbe a two-hand shove to the chest. Crabbe, as anyone would, didn’t take the shove too kindly, retreating halfway to the locker room, before re-entering the game at the next whistle.
That’s when the game changed.
From that point on, the Bears looked like a brand new team, as Crabbe and a hobbling Justin Cobbs combined for 55 points and propelled Cal to a 76-68 comeback win. After the shove, Cal outscored USC 42-21, in addition closing the game out on a 25-7 run.
When asked after the game about the shove, both Montgomery and Crabbe downplayed the incident, as expected when it seemingly spurred a comeback.
“It was coach’s way of motivating me,” Crabbe told the media, including FOX Sports Next’s Ryan Gorcey. “Everything’s fine. It’s under the bridge. No hard feelings.”
Montgomery echoed those sentiments, while being a bit more forward. “It worked, didn’t it?”
“Nobody was ready to play,” said Montgomery. “We were just standing. I was trying to get him going. Probably over-exaggerated it.”
It did work, and it did get the Bears, and Crabbe especially, to play a more sound game in the second half. Following the shove, Montgomery instilled a zone defense as opposed to his traditional man-to-man set, a move that completely turned the game around against Arizona last week in Tucson.
The Trojans, who were shooting out of their minds for much of the game, struggled to adapt to the zone. J.T. Terrell, who had three three-pointers and a team-high 17 points, scored just two points following the game-changing timeout, and Byron Wesley has just one of his four three-pointers.
With the loss, USC now sits at 7-6 in the Pac-12, tied with Colorado for sixth place, while being three games back of the first-place Oregon Ducks. Cal is now 8-5 and is tied with Arizona State for fourth in the conference.
Next up for the Trojans is UCLA, next Sunday at Galen Center.