Coach's Corner: Final weekend

It's the final homestand of the year and Lute Olson would love for his team, especially his seniors to go out in style. The Cats have already locked up the Pac-10 regular season championship and want to avoid a letdown before the Conference Tournament.

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Lute Olson began the press conference by touching on the Wildcats' Bay Area sweep.
Lute Olson: "We really are very happy with the way our guys responded at California and Stanford. Those were severe challenges, and I thought our guys showed great poise and great confidence in staying with what we were doing as a team."

He then switched gears and commented on guard Salim Stoudamire being recognized by the Pac-10.
Olson: "I was happy to see that Salim (Stoudamire) was recognized as the player of the week. He certainly deserved that for his clutch play on the offensive end, but the other thing that you sometimes forget is the kind of job that he did defensively. With (Joe) Shipp, if you look at his numbers in the second half, the second half was not as good as the first half. I think the reason was that we had to sit Salim out a lot in the first half because of foul problems. At Stanford, you look at (Matt) Lottich, and he had a hard time getting looks. When we ended up having problems with (Julius) Barnes penetrating so much, we had Salim move over to him, and he basically brought him to a halt. Not only was Salim's offense outstanding in the two games at Cal and Stanford, but his defense was every bit as critical."

Question: How big a goal was winning the Pacific-10 Conference title.
Olson: "It's the first goal. I think it's a true test of how good a team is if you can play 18 games and play half of them on the road. That's a real test. Now, we want to see what we can do about the NCAA Tournament."

Question: How do you think the fans will treat Jay John.
Olson: "I think Jay (John) will get a great reception. I think people know how important he was to our program for the years that he was here. He is a Tucson guy, he went to Salpointe, and he's a UA grad, so I would think that people would give him a great welcome back.

"He has done a great job, and the thing that he is really focused on is trying to bring back the tradition of Oregon State basketball. Their program has been one of the very elite programs in the country through the years, and that's what he has been trying to focus on. It's fortunate that he came in with a senior-dominated team, with (Philip) Ricci, Brian Jackson and Jimmie Haywood, which then allowed him to get this year started on a very positive note. He knows that he needs to have a great recruiting year. The reason I think that Jay is so good for that job is that it takes a guy that's going to get out and look under rocks and everywhere else that you have to for players."

On Oregon State senior forward Philip Ricci.
Olson: "He (Philip Ricci) is just a very efficient player. He is a really good shooter; he can shoot it from 15 or 17 feet, and he can really power the ball to the basket. He has great touch around the basket, and he has great hands."

Question: With all the balance on this team can a Wildcat win a the Conference Player of the Year?
Olson: "The biggest concern is the splitting of votes between the two (Jason Gardner and Luke Walton). It may be that Jason was really outstanding against one team, and Luke (Walton) was outstanding against another team. Jason has had a great year for us. In my opinion, the most valuable player in the league should come from the championship team because that is really where it gets down to showing how valuable you are in helping the team win the championship."

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