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Pac-10 Notebook

March 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Pac-10 Conference Notebook

by Scott Allen


1. Stanford bounces Oregon in Maples finale

Josh Childress made sure the final game at Maples Pavilion-at least, as he and so many other players and fans knew it – was a win, scoring 29 points, pulling down 12 boards and adding five assists for good measure in Stanford’s 76-55 trouncing of Oregon on Saturday. Renovations on the 36-year old facility known primarily for its bouncy floors began Monday. The new Maples, which will include a new scoreboard replete with video replay monitors and additional seating in the lower bowl, is scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2004-05 conference season. Stanford will play its home games at nearby Santa Clara and practice at the Ford Center on campus during the construction.

As for the game, the Cardinal opened the Duck hunt on Senior Day with a 13-0 run and never looked back. Down 17 at the half, Oregon was unable to mount even a semblance of a comeback like the one Stanford pulled off from 19 points down at McArthur Court on Jan. 31. Saturday’s win capped a 14-0 season at home for the Cardinal, the third time in school history Stanford has accomplished that feat.

2. Hello, Bubble

So much for the talk of the Pac-10 only receiving two invitations to the Big Dance. No, Oregon and Cal aren’t back in the picture. Bracketologists are talking about Lorenzo Romar’s Washington Huskies, by far the most intriguing story in the conference this season outside of Stanford’s historic run. After tumbling to a 0-5 start in conference play, the Huskies turned things around and are the one of the hottest teams in the nation right now. Just ask Arizona, which lost to Washington for just the second time ever at McKale Center, 89-84 on Thursday. The season sweep of the Wildcats launched the Huskies into second place in the conference standings.

Washington has won nine of 11 and one of the losses came in a close game at N.C. State, which just dropped its first game at home all season to North Carolina on Sunday. While the win at Arizona bolsters Washington’s tournament resume, a win at home against Stanford in the regular season finale or in the Pac-10 Tournament-no doubt a tall order-would cement its place in the Dance. Win or lose on Sunday, the Huskies could very well take the decision out of the selection committee’s hands as a serious threat to cut the nets at the Staples Center on Selection Sunday.

3. Arizona Slipping

While the Wildcats haven’t fallen quite as fast as the Huskies have risen, few could have predicted at the start of the season-heck, even two months ago-that Saturday’s home game against Washington State would mean so much. For Arizona, Saturday’s win likely kept the team off the tournament bubble heading into the final weekend of the season.

The Wildcats, which some prognosticators viewed as a Final Four team prior to the season, will likely have a tough road to San Antonio this season as seven, eight or nine seed. Still, the team’s athleticism and scary good offensive capabilities when firing on all cylinders will make them a favorite sleeper pick in office pools around the nation and no top seed wants to face the ‘Cats in the early rounds. Still, Salim Stoudamire or no Salim Stoudamire, a loss at home to Washington in late February is not Lute Olson’s idea of peaking at the right time.

4. It’s Getting Ugly at UCLA

The Bruins have lost six of seven and 11 of 13 after losses to USC and Notre Dame last weekend. Three games under .500 after the loss to the Fighting Irish, Ben Howland’s squad is dangerously close to ensuring a dubious achievement: back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 62 years. Ouch. What at first looked like an instant fix with Howland’s arrival has turned into a slow, but steady rebuilding project. Howland didn’t turn Pittsburgh into an elite team overnight and it’s a safe bet he’ll have the Bruins back on track sooner rather than later. A strong finish to this year would be a solid stepping stone heading into the offseason.

5. Statistically Speaking

Arizona State sophomore Ike Diogu has scored in double figures in all 58 games of his career, the longest active streak in the nation. Diogu has a full point lead over Luke Jackson for the conference scoring title heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Meanwhile, Cal freshman Leon Powe continues to lead the Pac-10 in rebounding with 9.5 rebounds per game. Andre Iguodala and Diogu are tied for second with 8.7 boards per game and UCLA’s Cedric Bozeman leads all players with 5.5 assists per game.

6. NIT-Picky

With one weekend left in the conference season, several Pac-10 teams are playing for their postseason lives-in that other tournament, that is. Luckily for Pac-10 teams, the NIT selection process is less concerned with RPI and strength of schedule. Bad losses? It’s all good. To be eligible for the NIT, a team must finish with a .500 or better record, leaving Cal, Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington State are on the NIT bubble. Oregon State could get to .500 with two wins this weekend and three in the Pac-10 tournament, but that would have the Beavers Big Dancing with an automatic bid as conference tournament champions.

No. 1 Stanford (25-0, 16-0)

The Cardinal faces two final tests in its quest to finish the regular season undefeated. Always (as of Dick Bennett’s hiring) dangerous Washington State awaits Mike Montgomery’s gang on Thursday night in Pullman, while the Huskies will look to run Stanford out of Bank of America Arena on Saturday and spoil its bid for perfection. Senior swingman Nick Robinson, made famous by his 35-foot buzzer-beater to stun Arizona last month, has a new number-one fan, a baby girl. Robinson’s wife Meagan gave birth to Annie Lee Robinson on Monday morning at Stanford hospital. Fellow senior Joe Kirchoffer had a double-double on Saturday, a fitting final home game for an unheralded, but steady reserve throughout his four years on the Farm. Forward Justin Davis, out of action since suffering a knee injury at Oregon State on Jan. 29, was honored as well. Davis is expected to be back for the start of the Pac-10 tournament.

Up Next: Saturday at Washington (3:30 PST on ABC)

Washington (15-10, 10-6)

The Huskies are playing as confident as any team in the nation at this point in the season after overcoming a 10-point deficit to knock off Arizona at the McKale Center and shellacking the Sun Devils 96-72 last weekend. Washington’s offensive prowess was on full display in Tempe, where five players scored in double figures, including Pac-10 player of the week Brandon Roy. Roy, a sophomore, had 18 points in the blowout and had 12 points and eight assists against Arizona. The road sweep of the Arizona schools was the first in 20 years for Washington. The Huskies have won 10 of their last 11 conference games and wrap up the conference schedule with games against Cal and No. 1 Stanford this weekend.

Up Next: California, Saturday vs. Stanford (3:30 PST on ABC)

Arizona (18-8, 10-7)

The Wildcats have a long week to prepare for their season finale against rival Arizona State at home. Lute Olson’s squad has won the past five games against the Sun Devils, including a pasting at Wells Fargo Arena earlier this season. Junior center Channing Frye averaged 22.5 points per game in the Wildcats’ split against the Washington schools last weekend and his match-up with Arizona State’s Ike Diogu should be fun to watch. Salim Stoudamire could do the ‘Cats a favor by refraining from behavior likely to get him suspended again in the near future. The junior is averaging 26 points in his last four games, including 21 in a 76-62 win over Washington State on Saturday.

Up Next: Sunday vs. Arizona State

California (13-12, 9-7)

Leon Powe reestablished himself as the freshman to be reckoned with he was during the first half of the conference season and Cal reestablished the fact that, should it’s core group of talented underclassmen stick around, the Bears could be down right nasty next season. As for this year, Cal’s sweep of the Oregon schools at home appears to be too little too late in the way of receiving an at-large bid, especially on the heels of a sweep at the hands of the L.A. schools. The Bears worked overtime to defeat Oregon at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night, as Powe turned in 20 points and 11 rebounds. Ben Braun started his seniors in the Bears’ final home game at Haas Pavilion so Powe came off the bench to get his 23 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday in a 75-58 victory over Oregon State. Amit Tamir topped the 1,000 point mark for his career, the 33rd California player to do so, in his final regular season game in Berkeley with 17 points.

Up Next: Saturday at Washington State

Oregon (12-11, 7-9)

The Ducks received an inspired performance from freshman point guard Aaron Brooks to battled back from a second-half deficit and force overtime against Cal on Thursday, but Ernie Kent’s squad succumbed in the extra session. The loss seemed to have taken a lot of the energy out of the Ducks when they traveled across the Bay for a date with Stanford on Saturday, as Oregon missed its first 10 shots and fell behind 13-0. Luke Jackson, who had 18 points and eight boards against the Bears, was held to six first half points against the Cardinal. Freshman point guard Aaron Brooks shined with a career-high 16 points-all in the second half-to go along with five assists in Berkeley.

Up Next: Saturday vs. UCLA

USC (12-13, 7-9)

The saving grace for the Trojans this season may be the bragging rights that come with beating rival UCLA twice and four straight times overall, the longest such streak since USC won 42 straight from 1932-43. Then again, beating this year’s Bruins squad isn’t all that much to brag about. Desmon Farmer had 28 points, including eleven in overtime, in a 78-77 win at the Sports Arena last week, but the night belonged to Jeff McMillan, who scored 19 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.

Up Next: Saturday at Oregon State

UCLA (11-14, 7-9)

The Bruins have lost three straight since defeating California 66-49 on Feb. 19, including a pair of setbacks last week to USC and Notre Dame. Freshman Trevor Ariza scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds against the Trojans in a 78-77 overtime loss and recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards in a 75-60 loss to Notre Dame three days later. The Bruins had a chance to force a second overtime when Dijon Thompson was fouled with less than a second to play and UCLA trailing by two. After he missed the first free throw, Thompson was instructed to miss the second and have center Ryan Hollins go for the would-be game-tying tip-in, but Thompson made the second. The Fighting Irish won in Pauley Pavilion for the first time since 1989.

Up Next: Saturday at Oregon

Washington State (12-14, 6-10)

The Cougars rolled out the offensive artillery in Thursday’s 83-70 win against Arizona State, a game with Pac-10 Tournament implications. Marcus Moore and Jeff Varem combined for 42 points, as Washington State maintained its hold on eighth place in the conference standings against the Pac-10’s cellar dweller. The top eight teams qualify for the Pac-10 Tournament. The Cougars trailed 41-37 at the half but held the Sun Devils to 33 percent shooting after the break. Dick Bennett’s squad, which leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense, shot 53 percent from the field in the game. The 83 points were 10 more than the Cougars’ previous high of 73 back on Dec. 6 in a win over TCU. Looking for the Arizona sweep, the Cougars came up short against Arizona, as Moore shot just 2-for-11 from the field. The loss was Washington State’s 38th straight to the Wildcats.

Up Next: Saturday vs. Cal

Oregon State (11-15, 5-11)

The Beavers stood no real chance against Stanford on Thursday and the Cardinal established that early on at home in a 73-47 romp. Jay John’s squad came out cold, missing 17 of its first 20 shots en route to a season low point total. David Lucas was the lone bright spot for Oregon State, recording a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards. Looking to keep pace with Washington State for the final spot in the upcoming Pac-10 Tournament, the Beavers did not fare much better across the Bay in Berkeley. Oregon State trailed by 14 at the half and Lucas was held to 5-for-15 shooting in a 75-58 defeat. Oregon State looks to earn a split with the L.A. schools this weekend at Gil Coliseum.

Up Next: Saturday vs. USC

Arizona State (10-16, 4-13)

Ike Diogu was his usual self and the Sun Devils suffered their common fate, a pair of losses last weekend. The sophomore sensation had 28 points on 10-for-14 shooting in Thursday’s 83-70 loss in Tempe to Washington State. Arizona State led by four at the half thanks to a 62.5 percent shooting performance against the conference’s best defense, but went cold down the stretch and shot just 33 percent from the field in the second half. Diogu had 27 points, eight rebounds and set the Pac-10 record for most free throws made in a season (240) two days later in a 96-72 loss to the Huskies. The Sun Devils shot just 4-for-19 from long range. Rob Evans gave four seniors the starting nod and used all 15 players on the active roster. Arizona State fell behind by 23 points early in the second half after trailing by just nine at the break and never recovered.

Up Next: Sunday at Arizona


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