No. 5 Cal controls USC in Pac-12 quarterfinals

SEATTLE -- After nearly a week of getting accolades and attention for claiming a share of the first conference title in school history, No. 5 California responded exactly how coach Lindsay Gottlieb expected.

Gennifer Brandon had 17 points and 16 rebounds and California scored the first 11 points on its way to a 78-59 win over USC in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament on Friday.

California, the No. 2 seed in the tourney despite sharing the regular season crown with Stanford, will face No. 14 UCLA in the semifinals on Saturday night.

The Bears (28-2) clinched a share of the conference title with a win over Washington last Saturday in Seattle and plenty of congratulations awaited them when they returned to Berkeley.

"Winning that game was a genuine show of emotion because it was their first time doing it. It was true and it was really neat," Gottlieb said. "At the same time we were able to appreciate that moment and move on quickly and there was never a feeling from anyone in our locker room that that's enough, that we have arrived. They've stayed hungry.

"Everyone was locked in after the smiles and everything of last weekend."

California has reached the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament for the seventh straight year and keeps alive the Golden Bears hopes of earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

California would likely need to beat Stanford in the title game or have the Cardinal get upset before reaching the final for the Bears to have a shot at a No. 1 seed.

The 28 wins also are a single-season school record. Brandon led a balanced scoring attack with Afure Jemerigbe and Brittany Boyd both adding 15 as California won its 16th straight.

Talia Caldwell scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds and the Golden Bears topped the 70-point mark for the eighth time in their past 10 games.

Brandon's 16 rebounds were her third-most of the season. She had a school-record 26 rebounds against USC earlier this season.

"I knew they were going to try and box me out so I just tried to slither my way through and be ready to go get the rebound anywhere I could," Brandon said.

Cassie Harberts led USC (11-20) with 24 points.

USC reached the quarters by knocking off Oregon State in the opening round on Thursday, but the Trojans couldn't be competitive against the Golden Bears for a third time this season. USC took California to overtime in Berkeley in January before the Bears pulled out a 71-63 win.

A month later in Los Angeles, the Trojans rallied in the second half but fell short in a 72-64 loss.

This time, the Trojans were playing catch up from the start.

"They were committed to showing us they were the tougher team," USC coach Michael Cooper said.

California dominated most of the first half, holding USC to 27 percent shooting and forcing 10 turnovers, which the Bears turned into 14 points.

California led by as many as 21, but the Trojans scored eight of the final 10 points of the half to get within 15, a deficit that could have been less had USC not missed its final four shots of the half. California had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half while USC had 16 total rebounds.

The Bears started the second half on a 10-4 run and were never threatened. California held a dominating 53-34 advantage on the boards -- including 25 second-chance points for the Bears -- and led by as many as 27 in the second half.

"We were terrific on the boards and I think our defense kick started everything," Gottlieb said.

Christina Marinacci and Ariya Crook both added 10 points for the Trojans.

"The biggest thing was physicality," Harberts said. "They gave us the punch and we just kind of fell flat on our butt and didn't respond."