Notes and quotes after Arizona's 90-78 win over Cal in the semi-finals of the Pac-10 tournament.
Two (New) Freshmen Come to Play vs. Cal
*Not enough can be said about the improvement and development over the past few games out of both Dennnis Latimore and Will Bynum. Of course they both still have a long way to go before they get to where they want to be, but both freshmen have had three straight "good" games.
Bynum served a one-game suspension by sitting out the Stanford loss a week ago. Since being reinstated though, he has had consecutive games of 14, 10 and 10 points. It's the first time he's scored in double figures in back-to-back games, much less three in a row. When Bynum plays within himself and within the offense, he can be as dangerous a scorer as anyone on the team.
Against the Bears, Bynum made two of the most critical shots of the game, non-Luke Walton division. As time ran out on the first half, Bynum drilled a 22-footer to give Arizona a healthy 47-39 lead. And late in the second half after Cal had cut into the Wildcats' lead, it was Bynum who hit yet another clutch shot, this time a ten-foot jumper on the right baseline. After that score, Arizona was never threatened again.
Arizona coach Lute Olson also cited Bynum's improved play on the defensive end, which he showed in holding Cal's Brian Wethers to a mere five second-half points after Wethers scored 17 before halftime.
"Will and Salim (Stoudamire) did a great job of making it difficult for (Wethers) to get the ball in his comfort zone," Lute Olson said. "He just killed us in the first half."
Latimore is starting to look more and more like the player most recruiting experts thought he would be all along. Tonight he scored six points, including two powerful dunks (one was a great one-handed follow-dunk off an Isaiah Fox miss) and has scored 20 points in the last two games against Cal. His improvement is huge for the frontcourt, because he is such an aggressive and physical rebounder.
Crazy Cal Fans
*An older Cal fan started in on the refs after a questionable foul call. He said (and I quote): "Hey ref! Leave the LSD at home! You're hallucenating. The 60's are over, man! Who are you anyway? Do you want to be in with Darrell Russell? Thirty-seven pounds of Ecstacy! Bring back Booker Turner! Bring back Charlie Range!"
Gardner's Free Throw Streak Snapped at 31
*Gardner's free throw streak came to an end at 31 after missing the chance to convert his third three-point play of the night. He then proceeded to miss three in a row before ending the game by making four straight. Before this season, Dylan Rigdon held the school record of 29 consecutive free throws but now two different Wildcats (Gardner and Stoudamire) have eclipsed that mark and gone past 30 in the same season.
Locker Room Banter
*(Jason Gardner and Luke Walton on how much fatigue will be a factor in Saturday's championship game with USC):
"If you let fatigue play a part in a championship game then you probably shouldn't be in the championship game anyway."-Gardner
"In any championship game you play whether you're fatigued or not."-Walton
*(Cal coach Ben Braun on Arizona's team):
"Arizona is a team you're going to see (in the NCAA's). They're an excellent passing team with a number of guys who make great decisions with the ball, and not just Jason Gardner either. Luke Walton had six assists tonight and only one turnover. You're talking about a six-foot-eight power forward here. They just have so many players that have been in pressure situations. Guys who have been to the Final Four and who have played for a national championship, you can't forget that.."
*(Cal small forward Brian Wethers, on Gardner and Walton):
"Both of those players are really tough. Gardner can break you down and then pull up with that jumper and he's also really hard one-on-one with his penetrating ability. Walton is just all-around solid. He just does things that are tough to defend."
Jason Gardner on his ability to get open shots or find his teammates for good shots:
"I think we moved the ball pretty good. We played good defense, but the main thing was we moved the ball very good."
Will Bynum on his increased playing time:
"My confidence never went anywhere. I knew as a freshman there would be some ups and downs."
On playing Cal a second time in a week:
"Cal came out tougher. They really wanted to prove something tonight, because in the last game they played us they gave up."
On shooting a great percentage (57.9) in the first half:
"Coach always comes in at halftime and tells us to pass the ball three times and get the percentages up."
Salim Stoudamire on play USC as an underdog and what it will take to beat the Trojans:
"We don't care what other people think, we know we're a good ball club and we're going to go out and prove it. We have to keep (USC) off the offensive boards. We have to limit them to one shot each possession and make them take tough shots."
On the resurgence of Desmond Farmer:
"Farmer is shooting the ball real good and I'm surprised."
Stoudamire suffered a hip flexor in the ASU game the night before and saw limited action against Cal:
"Every time I lift my leg it just kills me. But I'll get some rest tonight and put some ice on it. Hopefully I'll be ready tomorrow."
On the play of Will Bynum and Jason Gardner:
Will is playing real good right now and he deserves to play more. Jason does a lot for us and spends a lot of energy out there."