The No. 4 seed USC Trojans open day two of the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament with an early game against the No. 5 Cal Bears. USC (18-13, 10-8) is firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, likely in need of at least two wins in the Pac-10 Tournament, if not three (which would get them an automatic bid as tournament champs). USC and Cal split two games this year, with each team winning a close game on the road.
On January 22, Cal took advantage of poor interior defense by the Trojans to win 68-66 at Galen Center in Los Angeles. "It comes down to playing awful, awful defense for five straight minutes at the end, when every time [Cal] threw it in the post, they scored," head coach Kevin O'Neill said after the game. Donte Smith hit eight three-pointers, one shy of the school record, to keep the Trojans in it, but a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer from Jio Fontan fell short, securing the win for Cal.
The Trojans returned the favor at Berkeley on February 17, capturing a 78-75 win. Nikola Vucevic, who had six points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in the first matchup, picked up a double-double in this game with 21 points and 10 boards, leading USC to victory. Senior forward Alex Stepheson picked up a double-double as well, with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Trojans.
USC fell to 3-4 in conference play after that loss in January, but was able to win seven of their last 11 games to secure the No. 4 seed. They have the same Pac-10 record as Cal (17-13, 10-8), but USC captured the tiebreaker due to their superior record (1-1) against the top seed in the conference, Arizona. Of course, all that tiebreaker got the Trojans today is the ability to wear home uniforms.
Today's 12 p.m. PST game will be televised on Fox Sports West. The winner of today's contest faces the winner of Arizona vs. Oregon St. on Friday night.
For more Pac-10 Conference Tournament news and updates, be sure to stay tuned to this StoryStream. For more news on each specific team, be sure to read the SB Nation blogs Conquest Chronicles and California Golden Blogs.