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Pac-10 Notebook

February 5, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Pac-10 Conference Notebook

by Scott Allen

As Ernie Kent and the Oregon Ducks can attest, one half does not a game make. So what should we make of the past five weeks of basketball as the second half of the Pac-10 season kicks off on Thursday? Here’s what we know…and don’t know.

Stanford’s F’real

Forget the fact that the Cardinal played – and won – their first nine games of the season without the services of junior All-America candidate Josh Childress. Forget that two of those wins came over then-No. 1 Kansas and Gonzaga. Forget that Stanford survived a scare in Tempe two days before coasting to a victory at the McKale Center. All you really need to know is that this Stanford squad overcame a 19-point second-half deficit to beat Oregon last Saturday at McArthur Court, one of the most difficult places to play, let alone win, in recent years. The 83-80 triumph pushed the Cardinal’s record to 18-0 and came without the inside presence of senior center Justin Davis, who will be sidelined for at least two weeks with a knee injury suffered against Oregon State.

Arizona and Oregon are Legit, Too

As the preseason No. 1 in several polls, perhaps the Wildcats have underachieved a bit at 14-4 to this point. With freshman Mustafa Shakur running the point, pre-conference season close calls were probably to have been expected and a loss to Stanford, even at home, is nothing to hang your head about. Last weekend’s trip to Washington, however, proved that this year’s squad can’t beat teams simply by showing up. Still, when Arizona has everyone clicking, they can beat any team in the nation.

Led by Luke Jackson and a cast of supporting sharpshooters, including Andre Joseph and James Davis, Oregon is on track for a top-three conference finish-even after their meltdown against Stanford last Saturday.

More Questions Than Answers

As for the rest of the conference, it’s hard to separate the pretenders from the contenders. UCLA opened the conference season 5-0 and now sits at 5-4. Washington opened 0-5 before rattling off four straight wins. Will those respective trends continue? Hard to tell.

Washington State is much improved since last year and it’ll be fun to see if the Cougars defense is equally effective against opponents the second time around. Washington State is one team nobody wants to face in the Pac-10 tournament, especially teams with potential NCAA bids hanging in the balance. Despite a stellar first half from David Lucas, Oregon State seems headed towards a last-place finish. Is Cal ready to make a run? Can Rob Evans turn things around in Tempe? Can Henry Bibby and the Trojans establish any semblance of consistency in SoCal? Plenty of questions. The answers begin to roll in on Thursday.

Halfway Hardware

Player of the Half

Luke Jackson, Oregon

One can only imagine how good this year’s Ducks would be with Ridnour still around. The remaining Luke has done a fine job carrying the team, however. Jackson is second in the conference with 22.3 points per game, seventh in rebounds per game (7.4), sixth in assists per game (4.93), second in free throw percentage (90.1) and fifth in three-pointers made per game (2.50). Arizona State’s Ike Diogu (first in scoring, second in rebounding) deserves consideration, as does Andre Iguodala (15th in scoring, 3rd in rebounding, 2nd in assists). For Stanford, while no individual’s numbers are mind-boggling, there is no debating the importance of sophomore point guard Chris Hernandez to both the Cardinal’s offense and defense. His numbers (3rd in assists, 1st in free-throw and three-point percentage) aren’t, pardon the pun, “half” bad.

Freshman of the Half

Leon Powe, California

No disrespect to Trevor Ariza and Mustafa Shakur, but there’s really no competition for this award. Powe, who has nine double-doubles thus far, has dominated as a freshman like Ike Diogu did a year ago. His 9.7 rebounds per game place him just ahead of Ike for tops in the conference and the Oakland sensation’s scoring production isn’t too shabby either, with his 15.5 per game, good for sixth in the conference. Powe’s 63 percent free throw percentage leaves something to be desired, but that’s about all he hasn’t done right this season.

Coach of the Half

Mike Montgomery, Stanford

Washington State’s Dick Bennett has done a nice job of bringing the Cougars back to respectability with the top scoring defense in the Pac-10 and Oregon State’s Jay John got off to a good start with little to work with. Props to Lorenzo Romar in getting his team back on track after an 0-5 start in conference, but how can you not give this award to Monty? A 1-1-3 zone has thrown opposing offenses all season and the coaching veteran has seemed to make the right moves all season. Hard to argue with 18 wins and zero losses, nine of which have come in a major conference.

Surprising Team of the Half


No doubt. Sure, many predicted the Cardinal would reach 18 wins this season-by March, not January.

Disappointing Team of the Half


The Trojans have been on a roller-coaster ride all season. They beat up on Arizona at the Sports Arena and get blown out two nights later by Arizona State. They get whooped by Cal Poly at home and put Stanford on the ropes in Palo Alto. Isn’t that what we should have expected from USC, you ask? Well, back in November, yours truly predicted the Trojans would finish third in the conference thanks to an athletic bunch that rivals any team in the conference and veteran experience reminiscent of the Arizona State squad that made a surprising run last year. Speaking of the Sun Devils, I don’t consider them the most disappointing team of the half because I predicted they’d finish ninth in the conference prior to the season.

Inside the Pac-10

Arizona Wildcats (14-4, 6-3)

Arizona’s annual trip to Seattle wasn’t the coffee break Lute Olson’s squad likely expected, as unranked Washington upset the ‘Cats 96-83. Two weeks after falling victim to Desmon Farmer’s 40 point-outburst in a loss to USC, the ‘Cat-killer last Thursday was Nate Robinson, who scored a career-high 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting. Arizona let an early nine-point second-half lead slip away, as Channing Frye and Hassan Adams got into foul trouble and the squad went cold down the stretch. A match-up with Washington State two days later was no walk in the park either, though the Wildcats came away with a 61-57 win in Pullman. Arizona made up for the Cougars stingy defense, which held them to 27 points below their season average, by dominating the glass by a 45-24 margin. Andre Iguodala pulled down 15 of those boards, while Frye scored a team-high 17 points.

Up Next: Thursday at California, Saturday at Stanford

Arizona State Sun Devils (8-10, 2-7)

The mood’s been dreary in the Valley of the Sun for the first half of the season and Arizona State’s last two games were no exception. Not even Ike Diogu could crack Washington State’s defense in a 63-56 loss in Pullman. Diogu was held to 2-for-7 shooting, although his 9-for-11 performance at the free throw line placed him in double figures to keep his streak alive. The 56 points were a season low for the Sun Devils, which committed a season-high 24 turnovers.

Rob Evans’ squad found its shooting touch against Washington, but not before digging a 12-0 hole to open yet another loss, 90-81. Diogu led the Sun Devils with 23 points and Jamal Hill scored 21 points off the bench in defeat, as Arizona State dropped its fourth consecutive game.

Up Next: Thursday at Stanford, Saturday at California

California Golden Bears (9-9, 5-4)

Ben Braun’s squad whittled a 23-point deficit to six in the final minutes, but the Bears fell short in a 68-56 loss at McArthur Court. Freshman Marquise Kately scored a team-high 17 points and fellow freshman Leon Powe added 12 more as Cal used a pair of second-half runs to climb back into a game they trailed 37-20 at the break. A 16-3 run cut the Oregon lead to 10 at the midway point of the second half before a 10-1 run trimmed the lead to 59-53 with under three minutes to play. Cal would get no closer.

The Bears rebounded with their third win in four games two days later, knocking off Oregon State 88-74 behind Powe’s 20 points and 14 rebounds. Amit Tamir complemented Powe’s inside play with six three-pointers en route to 20 points. The win was Cal’s 12th straight over the Beavers.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Arizona, Saturday vs. Arizona State

Oregon Ducks (10-6, 5-4)

Oregon’s largest halftime lead of the season, 17 points, was enough to hold off Cal for their 36th win in 38 games at McArthur Court. The Ducks let the lead slip to six late in the second half, but senior Luke Jackson scored six of his 17 points after that to seal the win. Ian Crosswhite added 16 for the Ducks.

The second-half letdown against Cal was portentous of things to come two days later in an 81-80 loss to Stanford. Oregon extended a 15-point halftime lead to 45-26 early in the second half, at which point it slowly began to dissipate. The Ducks allowed Stanford to shoot 64 percent in the second half as Stanford rallied all the way back and held a 79-75 lead with just over a minute to play. A three-pointer by James Davis cut the Stanford lead to one with three seconds to go and a desperation heave at the buzzer clanged off the back iron.

Up Next: Saturday vs. Oregon State

Oregon State Beavers (8-11, 2-7)

The Beavers put up a nice fight against No. 1 Stanford, holding the Cardinal to 39 percent shooting and winning the battle of the boards, but neither minor victory could prevent a 62-48 loss at Gill Coliseum. Oregon State led by as many as seven points in the first half and led briefly in the second half, but had no answer for Stanford’s 12-0 run shortly after the break. Chris Stephens drilled five three-pointers and led all scorers with 24 points, while David Lucas contributed 15 points and eight rebounds.

In a similar performance against California on Saturday, the Beavers hung with the Bears for the first 20 minutes of an 88-74 loss. Lucas scored a game-high 25 points in defeat, as Oregon State lost its fifth straight heading into Saturday’s Civil War at Oregon.

Up Next: Saturday at Oregon

Stanford Cardinal (18-0, 9-0)

Stanford struggled to find its offensive rhythm in an ugly 62-48 victory. Davis’ absence was felt on the boards, as the Cardinal was out-rebounded by the Beavers, but the offense struggled from the outside. Stanford connected on just 4-of-18 shots from beyond the arc. Josh Childress scored 17 points and sophomore Matt Haryasz added 10 points and seven boards off the bench. Haryasz played increased minutes after senior big-man Justin Davis left the game early in the second half after landing on another player’s foot and injuring his knee.

In their first game without Davis, Stanford faced their most adversity of the season, falling behind by 19 points early in the second half against Oregon at McArthur Court. With their unblemished record on the line, sophomore Chris Hernandez orchestrated a dramatic comeback, scoring all 22 of his points in the second half. Behind Hernandez’s hot hand, the Cardinal shot 64 percent after the break. Haryasz, who started in place of Davis, scored 19 points and Matt Lottich added 15 for Stanford.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Arizona State, Saturday vs. Arizona

UCLA Bruins (9-8, 5-4)

The Bruins lost the battle for Los Angeles 76-69 despite a career-high 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting from sophomore center Ryan Hollins. Dijon Thompson added 11 points. UCLA’s losing streak stretched to five after the Bruins dropped a non-conference game at St. John’s 71-55. Freshman Trevor Ariza scored 19 points as the only UCLA player in double figures. The Bruins fell behind by 17 in the first half and never recovered. The ugly loss included a 4-for-15 showing at the free-throw line and getting out-rebounded 53-32. The Red Storm had lost seven straight games heading into the game.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Washington State, Saturday vs. Washington

USC Trojans (4-5, 9-9)

In their only game of the week, the Trojans defeated rival UCLA 76-68 at Pauley Pavilion. Desmon Farmer led the way with 28 points and Errick Craven added 18, as the Trojans’ normally weak scoring defense held the Bruins to 24 points in the first half. USC let a 22-point lead slip to three with 2:33 to play, but UCLA turned the ball over with chances to tie or narrow the gap in the final seconds. USC shot 56 percent in the first 20 minutes en route to a 20-point halftime lead. The Trojans have won three straight over the Bruins.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Washington, Saturday vs. Washington State

Washington Huskies (9-8, 4-5)

After starting the conference season 0-5, the Huskies have won four straight, including a sweep of the Arizona schools last weekend. Washington upended Arizona 90-81 on Thursday behind a career-high 31 points from Nate Robinson. Will Conroy poured in 19 points, as Washington rallied from nine points down in the second half. A 13-2 run capped by an Anthony Washington jumper gave the Huskies their first lead of the game with 10:31 to play and an electrifying alley-oop dunk by Robinson a minute later sparked Washington’s decisive run. Robinson followed his career nigh with just eight points against Arizona State two days later, but Tre Simmons scored 21 points off the bench to lead the way in a 90-81 victory. The win completed Washington’s first sweep of the Arizona schools since 1998-99.

Up Next: Thursday at USC, Saturday at UCLA

Washington State Cougars (8-11, 3-6)

As usual, the Washington State defense was effective against Arizona State, but it was a 52 percent shooting performance in the second half that helped the Cougars end a three-game losing streak with a 63-56 victory over Arizona State. Jeff Varem scored 17 points and Marcus Moore added 12, all in the second half. The Cougars made a bid for an Arizona-school sweep as their in-state rivals accomplished, but came up just short two days later in a 61-57 loss to Arizona. Marcus Moore scored 29 points, but none came in the final five minutes. Moore didn’t get much support offensively and the Cougars could only muster five offensive boards. Tony Bennett coached the Cougars in the absence of his father Dick Bennett, who was reportedly sick for several days leading up to the game and showed up looking pale. A win probably would’ve sped up his recovery.

Up Next: Thursday at UCLA, Saturday at USC


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