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USC will try not to let its guard down Sunday at California

Allen Crabbe, a 6-6 guard who leads Pac-12 in scoring, gave USC fits when Cal won in L.A. on Jan. 5. Now the hobbled Trojans get another shot at him in Berkeley.

February 16, 2013|By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

California is driven by a talented pair of guards, Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs.

USC's two point guards, on the other hand, are nursing injuries going into Sunday's game against the Golden Bears in Berkeley, although both are expected to play.

Senior Jio Fontan, who bruised his left knee when it hit the court Thursday during the Trojans' win at Stanford, said that while the contact left a mark, he would be able to play Sunday.

"But I'm happy to have an extra day," Fontan said. "Usually you don't like the Thursday-Sunday thing on the road but this time it's good to have an extra day."

Fontan's backup, walk-on freshman Chass Bryan, also bruised his knee but interim Coach Bob Cantu said he expected Bryan to be good to go.

Cantu was thoroughly impressed with Cal's 76-63 win over UCLA on Thursday.

"I'm expecting a very good team who made a lot of shots at home and withstood a run," Cantu said. "Cal's transition defense is excellent and they do a good job of sharing the ball."

As for defending the 6-foot-6 Crabbe, which USC didn't do well in a 72-64 loss to the Bears on Jan. 5 at the Galen Center, Cantu said the key is to deny him "mistake" baskets.

"You know, you make a mistake, he gets an easy one," Cantu said of Crabbe, who leads the Pac-12 Conference in scoring at 19.6 points per game and had 27 points against USC last month. "He can score in a lot of different ways but you want to contest everyone. Last time we gave him eight or nine points just on mistakes we made."

Cantu said Fontan and Byron Wesley, who played some point guard against Stanford, will be the primary defenders on Crabbe, who is from Los Angeles.

Fontan said that in the first meeting Crabbe, with his long arms, "did a good job of getting to the 50-50 balls and we have to be prepared for that."

He also said he thinks it's a little harder for teams that first played the Trojans when Kevin O'Neill was still coaching in January to recognize they are seeing a different USC now.

"We're executing better now, we're more up-tempo, we have different guys in different spots in the rotation so it's a little tougher," Fontan said. "Maybe now we have enough games [eight], enough film that the other teams know what adjustments to make."

After Sunday, the Trojans will be off until Feb. 24 when they'll try to complete a season sweep of UCLA at the Galen Center.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Twitter: @mepucin

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