Dispatch from Pac-10 Land
by Philip Kasiecki
The quarterfinals of the Pac Ten Tournament went as expected, with the top seeds winning each game, and some minor surprises at times.
Regular season champion Oregon outscored Washington 51-22 in the second half to knock off the Huskies in front of a light crowd in the opener. The Ducks struggled for some of the first half, especially when Washington’s David Dixon went out with two fouls and the Huskies had a more athletic lineup on the floor. The Huskies created turnovers and denied the ball on the perimeter, and were able to run. But the young Huskies weren’t able to sustain their play in the second half as the Ducks were solid.
In the second game, USC made it look easy as they blew out Stanford. In the two regular season meetings, both of which the Trojans won, turnovers were a big key; in this game, shooting made all the difference, as Stanford struggled while USC was hot from the floor throughout. The Trojans got balanced scoring as well, as Sam Clancy, Brandon Granville, Desmon Farmer, David Bluthenthal, and Jerry Dupree all reached double figures. Farmer and Dupree did a lot of damage off the bench in the first half, as they combined for 18 points in 12 minutes apiece.
The third game of the day was an ugly one as Arizona won the battle of the state schools. Arizona State couldn’t buy a basket for most of the game (34.8% shooting from the field), the main reason the Wildcats won since they were not much better. Luke Walton led the way for Arizona, scoring early and often and getting key baskets in the second half as well. Jason Gardner supported him well, especially in the second half.
In the final game of the night, California outlasted UCLA in a great nail-biter. The Golden Bears led for most of the game, including opening up a 10-point lead in the latter part of the second half. But the Bruins fought back to tie it until the Golden Bears executed better in the closing minutes.
Ryan Forehan-Kelly gave the well-balanced Golden Bears a big lift off the bench with great three-point shooting, especially in the first half, while Joe Shipp played a solid game. UCLA fans have to ask two questions: where was Jason Kapono in the second half, and where was Dan Gadzuric for most of the night? Kapono had just two points in the second half and did not take many shots, while Gadzuric had just six points, all coming late in the second half. Gadzuric has played with little intensity over his collegiate career and never made the most of his talents, but Kapono simply did not move well without the ball to get more touches and more shots.
In the first semifinal game, Oregon will take on USC. The Ducks looked very vulnerable against an athletic team, and USC is just that. But the Trojans don’t overwhelm opponents with defense, so they will have to take care of the ball and shoot it like they did against Stanford, especially since Oregon is one of the nation’s best offensive teams. The Ducks beat the Trojans both times during the regular season, including a close one in Los Angeles last weekend.
In the second semifinal, Arizona will face off against California. The Wildcats won both games in the regular season, including a 46-point blowout in Tucson last weekend, so they would appear to have the upper hand. But the Wildcats will have to play better than they did for most of Thursday’s game, as they let a cold-shooting Arizona State team hang around until the latter part of the second half. If the game is a running match, Arizona may have the edge; if it’s a slow-down, grind it out game, the Golden Bears may have the edge with their inside game and balanced offense.
Predictions: Well, I went 4-for-4 in the quarterfinals, so perhaps making predictions in this conference isn’t so futile. Oregon should have enough firepower to knock off USC, as the Trojans won’t be good enough defensively to shut down the high-powered offense of the Ducks. In the nightcap, Arizona should advance to the championship game with a close win over California.