Dispatch from Pac-10 Land – Finals
by Phil Kasiecki
In the Pac Ten championship game, Arizona used a strong second half to beat USC in a well-played but poorly officiated game.
USC got off to a fast start, as they scored off their press and missed Wildcat shots. But Salim Stoudamire kept the Wildcats right there with hot three-point shooting, a necessity since the Trojans shut down Jason Gardner for most of the game. Gardner did not get many shots, with his only point of the first half coming on a free throw in the final minute. He would not get his first field goal until about 8 minutes were gone in the second half. The Wildcats’ inside game did little at the offensive end as well; their freshmen all have very good potential, but Channing Frye, Dennis Latimore and Isaiah Fox did not play their best ball on this day.
In the second half, Luke Walton, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, made several key baskets as the Wildcats started to take over the game. USC’s press was less effective since the Trojans struggled shooting the ball. Stoudamire made more big shots, then Gardner was able to assert himself. Rick Anderson also made several key plays at various stages of the game, giving the Wildcats a veteran who knows how to play in big games. Aiding the cause was foul trouble for USC, as Sam Clancy, David Bluthenthal, and Errick Craven all picked up their third foul early in the second half.
The Trojans moved Jerry Dupree into the starting lineup in the semifinal game and had him start the championship game, and he was generally very effective. He is a good, active athlete who makes plays and is around the ball a lot. Early in the championship game, he made several plays to deflect or steal passes and help the Trojans jump out to an early lead. But in the second half, he did not play very much, and was less effective since the Trojans were unable to press much.
Early in the game, the officials did not do well with some calls or non-calls, which infuriated even the normally mild-mannered Lute Olson. USC head coach Henry Bibby was after the officials more, and in the final minutes he was hit with a technical foul that helped seal the game when Stoudamire hit both free throws.
Both teams are capable of making a good run in the NCAA Tournament. We will see what happens after the brackets come out and the games begin on Thursday.