Arizona Eliminates USC From Pac-10 Tournament

March 12, 2011

Los Angeles -- In an evenly matched game, the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats defeated the USC Trojans 67-62, to advance through to the Pac-10 Tournament championship final. Conference Player of the Year Derrick Williams paced Arizona with 20 points and 6 rebounds.

The Wildcats took a 25-19 lead with 8:07 left in the first half, creating a comfortable advantage that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.

Williams scored 12 of the game's last 15 points, including all 4 of his free throws in the final seconds to seal the game.

Clearly the best player on the floor, Williams was able to mix outside shots as well as inside moves to frustrate USC’s big man tandem of Nicola Vucevic (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Alex Stepheson (8 points, 8 rebounds). Williams is projected to be a high lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

USC played without head coach Kevin O’Neill, who was suspended prior to the game for a Thursday night altercation with an Arizona booster. In his place was Bob Cantu, USC’s associate head-coach who has been with the Trojans for 10 years.

Cantu's Trojans kept hanging around by making spurts throughout the second half, cutting the deficit to 58-55 with 2:39 to go.  At that point, in what would be the key play of the game, USC's defense collapsed on Williams, allowing him to find Jamelle Horne for a dagger three-point basket.

Horne would finish with 8 points off the bench. Arizona forward Jesse Perry (11 points) and point guard Lamont Jones (7 points) also made notable contributions in the Wildcats' win.

USC jumped to an early 15-9 lead in large part because of 8 points from senior Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Simmons, but could not sustain their momentum.

When Simmons picked up his third foul with 19:13 left in the second half, USC was forced to go with a three-guard lineup of Jio Fontan, Donte Smith, and Maurice Jones. That lineup could not consistently stop Arizona defensively, allowing the Wildcats to essentially answer USC basket for basket.

Now USC's NCAA Tournament fate will not be determined until Selection Sunday. If they were to make the field, they would likely be one of the last bubble teams selected.

On the other hand, Arizona appears to be a lock for a 4 or 5 seed, but breaking through to the third seed line seems out of reach given that quality teams such as Connecticut and Louisville are also doing well.


By Christian Siagian
Contributing Writer for

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