It’s rare when you can say that an 11-point margin is deceptive, as in the winning team was far more dominant than the final score would indicate. But that was exactly the case in the second half of Wednesday’s First Four doubleheader in Dayton as USF beat California 65-54, advancing to take on 5-seed Temple on Friday in Nashville.
For a team that struggled offensively for much of the season, the Bulls were very efficient on this night. USF shot 57.1% from the field and Victor Rudd Jr. led four players in double figures with 15 points to go along with six rebounds.
The Bulls finished the night averaging 1.105 points per possession, and their offensive efficiency (110.5) was the highest for the Bulls since a January 29th win over Providence (81-78; h/t to statsheet.com for the efficiency stats).
The game was headed in the wrong direction from the start for the Golden Bears, who never led and put forth a performance that provides even more ammunition for those who argued that the Pac-12 should have been a one-bid league.
Anthony Collins scored eight of his twelve points in the first 5:27 of the game and it took Cal more than five minutes to score their first points of the game. The halftime score: 36-13 Bulls.
“We dug ourselves a huge hole in the first half and probably as bad as I’ve seen us play,” remarked Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. “We just didn’t seem to have energy. They shot the ball in, we couldn’t make a shot; they were getting loose balls, we couldn’t get loose balls. We weren’t doing much of anything.”
Harper Kamp scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the way for Cal, who finishes the season at 24-10. The Golden Bears shot 36.2% from the field and 3-for-15 from three, and with USF playing as they were in a game with just 59 possessions Cal stood no chance.
The question for the Bulls is how they manage the turnaround on the heels of the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory (USF was last in the tournament in 1992). Temple provides a good match-up on the perimeter with their three guards, and they’re bound to put forth more resistance than the Pac-12 runner-up did.