Pac-10 title sets off wild celebration
When it was over, and the Wildcats had locked up their first Pac-10 title in six seasons, sophomore point guard MoMo Jones took them for a special ride.
He merely began a dash through the student cheering section -- known as the Zona Zoo -- and his teammates happily got onboard.
"We just followed MoMo," sophomore forward Solomon Hill said after Arizona's 90-82 win over Oregon. "That was off his energy. He wanted to go through the Zona Zoo. He just ran off, and we followed him."
The postgame celebration demonstrated the chemistry that developed on this team, which last season failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time after 25 consecutive appearances.
"I'd say we all came together with a common goal in mind, to be undefeated at home and win a Pac-10 championship," senior forward Jamelle Horne said. "We all wanted the game to go well. Today, we all played really hard. It wasn't pretty, but we fought through it."
"It's amazing," sophomore forward Derrick Williams said. "This is the reason why I came here."
The difference from a year ago is dramatic, Williams said.
"I believe that everybody knows their role, and last year we didn't know our roles," he said. "Sometimes you've got to give to get what you want. That's why we all sacrificed a little bit, whether it was Kevin (Parrom) coming off the bench, just everybody sacrificing a little bit, just to try to get that win.
"That's the main focus, just winning off the bench, just everybody sacrificing a little bit, just to try to get that win. That's the main focus, just winning."
The Wildcats insist their quest has just begun. Next is the Pac-10 tournament, then the NCAA Tournament.
"I just want to win, that's all I can say about that," Williams said. "That's my focus for right now."
Oregon coach Dana Altman has no doubt the Wildcats will continue to win.
"Arizona is the best team in the league," Altman said. "Derrick Williams is an unbelievable player. (Coach) Sean Miller had done a wonderful job in two years to get them where they are. I think they have a chance to make a run."
--The Wildcats missed their first nine 3-point attempts against Oregon State, finishing the game at 5-for-23.
--Through the end of the regular season, Arizona had won 19 consecutive games against unranked opponents.
--The Wildcats have won 12 Pac-10 titles since joining the league in 1978-79.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Years since Arizona last went undefeated at home. The Wildcats were 17-0 at McKale Center this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our goal was to absolutely not let (Derrick) Williams kill us. Do you know what I like about him? He's so unselfish. No matter how many points he scores, he just makes plays." -- Oregon State coach Craig Robinson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GAME PREVIEW: By winning their first Pac-10 regular-season title since 2005, the Wildcats earned a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament in Los Angeles. They will play March 10 against either Oregon or Arizona State. The Cats swept both teams during the regular season.
POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: Arizona is equipped with one of the nation's elite players in sophomore PF Derrick Williams, and the Cats have good depth around him. Arizona shoots very well from the perimeter, is a solid rebounding team but does have flaws.
"To me, our quest of how the postseason goes, where we go from here, (is) what our defense can become," coach Sean Miller said. "Can we regain some of what we've had for a long time, can we improve, can we address some things? If we can, then I think we can have a special month of March as well."
FUTURES MARKET: Clearly, the Wildcats hired the right man for the job. Even the most optimistic Arizona fans couldn't have imagined Sean Miller returning them to the top of the Pac-10 Conference in just two seasons. "I can't imagine it being any better anyplace else," Miller said. He has now won four conference titles over the past five seasons, including three straight in the Atlantic-10 Conference to end his tenure at Xavier.
--Sophomore F Derrick Williams, widely expected to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year, was plagued by foul problems against Oregon and finished with just 14 points and five rebounds. He had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the Cats' win over Oregon State.
--Sophomore F Solomon Hill, who has been quiet offensively in recent weeks, had 10 points in Arizona's win over Oregon State, then 14 vs. Oregon.
--Junior SG Kyle Fogg came alive to score 20 points in the title-clinching win over Oregon. He was 4-for-7 from 3-point range and converted all eight of his free throws.
Seniors go out on a high note
It wasn't much of a season for three Arizona State seniors, but Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan sure went out with a bang.
The last-place Sun Devils got it right on the final weekend of the regular season, beating Oregon 73-53, then overpowering Oregon State 80-66 on Senior Day.
Coach Herb Sendek said the pregame ceremony was too much for him.
"I always try to hold it together on senior day, and most times I'm pretty good, and I was doing fine, although I was fighting it," Sendek said. "(But) when I saw Ty and he was already gushing, then I had no choice, I couldn't stop myself."
At last, the Devils had something positive to cry about.
The senior three combined for 55 points against Oregon -- enough to win the game if no else had scored -- and 50 more against Oregon State.
"A great way to end it," Abbott said.
"After four years, every single day and all the time and effort, we got to thank our teammates for coming out and playing really hard and giving us this opportunity to have this feeling," McMillan said.
"I know the kind of competitors our three seniors are, and it's been difficult for them," Sendek said. "They helped bring the program into some really good places the last three years, but they continue to be great leaders and do all the right things, and so they have a chance to play like they did tonight."
--Arizona State and Oregon battled to a 37-37 draw on the boards, the first time in Pac-10 play the Sun Devils weren't outrebounded.
--Arizona State bet Oregon by 20 points despite committing 20 turnovers. The Sun Devils were more frugal with the ball against Oregon State, turning it over just nine times.
--The Sun Devils held Oregon to 29.6 percent shooting and forced 25 turnovers.
BY THE NUMBERS: 71 -- The number of 3-point field goals the Sun Devils attempted in wins over Oregon and Oregon State. They made 30 of them.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It feels good for a couple shooters." -- Arizona State senior SG Ty Abbott, after he and senior teammate Rihards Kuksiks combined for 13 3-point baskets in the win over Oregon State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Oregon, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 9
KEY MATCHUPS: Arizona State won only four games in conference play, but two of them were double-digit victories over the Ducks. Momentum belongs to the Sun Devils. While they are coming off a pair of wins, Oregon has dropped four in a row. Arizona State can continue its little run if its seniors keep playing well.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshman G Corey Hawkins, who has gotten more playing time in recent weeks, continues to show the ability to score points in a hurry. He had 13 points, going 3-for-5 from 3-point range, in just 10 minutes off the bench against Oregon State.
--Senior SG Ty Abbott had 22 points in each of Arizona State's wins over the Oregon schools. An all-Pac-10 player as a junior, Abbott put an uneven senior season behind him by making 12 of 26 3-pointers in the two games. He also totaled 10 assists and eight rebounds.
--Senior SF Rihards Kuksiks, who struggled with an ankle injury late in the season, came off the bench to score 22 points in the win over Oregon, then started on Senior Day and had 18 points against Oregon. He was 11-for-26 from the 3-point arc in the two games.
--Senior PG Jamelle McMillan, also limited by injuries this season, had 11 points and six assists vs. Oregon, then 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds vs. Oregon State.
Bears hope bye is sign of more good things to come
You'd think the Golden Bears would be satisfied. You'd think they could relax and enjoy what they've achieved.
Picked to finish seventh in the Pac-10 after losing four senior starters from last year's conference championship team, they wound up tied for fourth after winning their final four games.
That's not enough, not for their lone senior or their star freshman.
"I want to play another game somewhere else," senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison said after Cal routed rival Stanford 74-55 in the regular-season finale at Haas Pavilion.
"The NCAAs -- that's where I want to play. That and the Pac-10s. That's it."
"We can compete with anybody in this conference," added freshman guard Allen Crabbe after scoring 24 points against Stanford. "We're very confident. Our team chemistry continues to grow."
As they have done most of the season, the Bears played a very short rotation while avenging an earlier 14-point loss to Stanford. Six players accounted for all but 11 minutes, and that included a few mop-up minutes by the reserves.
But the players on the floor have found their roles and developed into a very efficient offensive team.
No one saw this coming, and that includes coach Mike Montgomery.
"We thought if we won this game, we could get into fourth (place)," he said, "and that's quite an accomplishment for this group."
--The Bears shot 55.8 percent against Stanford despite making just one of nine attempts from 3-point range. They were 28-for-43 on 2-point attempts, a sizzling 65.1 percent.
--Cal outscored Stanford 44-16 in the paint and 15-0 on fast-break points.
--The Bears had leads of 10-2, 19-4 and 74-46 before coach Mike Montgomery pulled his starters with two minutes left.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Double-doubles in the regular season by senior C Markhuri Sanders-Frison.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have been through a lot. I credit my teammates and the coaches for staying focused and just trying to do as well as we can, especially with the adversity we have been playing through." -- Junior F Harper Kamp, alluding to the fact that four players the Bears expected back after last season never made it to the starting line this season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. USC, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 10
KEY MATCHUPS: The Bears and Trojans split two regular-season games, each winning on the other's home floor. Cal will be happy to face USC in a noon game, before most of the L.A. crowd arrives at the Staples Center. By working their way into the No. 4 vs. No. 5 game, the Bears also avoided a potential semifinal matchup with Washington, the one team that dominated them twice this season. Cal must contain USC junior F Nikola Vucevic, one of the league's most underrated players, and must defend the perimeter better than it did during two previous matchups, during which the Trojans shot a combined 19-for-39 from the 3-point line.
FUTURES MARKET: The Bears suffered a recruiting setback when City College of San Francisco combo guard De'End Parker withdrew his commitment and announced he would sign this spring with UCLA. But Cal did get a verbal commitment from 6-8 F Christian Behrens of Tahoma High School in suburban Seattle.
--Senior C Markhuri Sanders-Frison had 13 points and 13 rebounds against Stanford.
--Freshman SG Allen Crabbe had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists vs. Stanford. Since returning after missing 2 1/2 games with a concussion, Crabbe was averaging 19.3 points and is 11-for-20 from 3-point range, and Cal won all four games.
--Junior F Harper Kamp shot 9-for-12 and scored 20 points against Stanford, his sixth game of 20 points or more.
Loss at Arizona provides glimmer of optimism
It wasn't a victory, but the Ducks could feel better about themselves after the regular-season-ending 90-82 loss at Arizona.
The defeat was the fourth straight for the Ducks, but it did come at the hands of the Pac-10 champions on a floor where the Wildcats went 17-0 this season.
"We got a little momentum at the end of the game that we can start to build on," junior point guard Malcolm Armstead said. "You never feel good (with a loss), but we have something to build on."
After three defeats that left little to be pleased with, coach Dana Altman saw some reasons to be encouraged. In particular, he liked his team's grit.
"We had the same fight we had earlier in the season," he said. "I want them to do be excited about that. They did all those things you look for for competitiveness."
The Ducks were one of the surprise stories of the Pac-10 for much of the year. After dropping their first four games of the conference schedule, they blossomed in the new Matthew Knight Arena.
They won seven of their next 10 games overall and were in the thick of the battle for a spot in the middle of the conference standings.
Then came losses by 10 points to Cal and 17 to Stanford -- both at home -- before a 73-53 road shellacking at last-place Arizona State.
"We didn't compete like we had been, back when we got a few wins," junior guard Garrett Sim said after the Sun Devils game. "I think we're all kind of disappointed in how we played."
Two days later, they battled from start to finish at Arizona, preventing the Wildcats from launching a championship celebration until the final horn sounded.
"Our energy and our camaraderie are definitely back up to the level we were at," senior forward Joevan Catron said.
Now the Ducks have to find a way to maintain that effort.
--In their loss to Arizona State, the Ducks shot a season-low .296 from the field, with the previous low being .321 against Arizona State, back on Jan. 1. Oregon's point total was also its low for a Pac-10 game.
--In the regular season, the Ducks went 2-15 when they shot a worse percentage than their opponent.
--Oregon entered the Pac-10 tournament riding a four-game losing streak and with just a 3-8 record away from home.
BY THE NUMBERS: 30 -- Oregon players who have scored 1,000 points or more in their career. Joevan Catron joined the ranks when he scored a career-high 28 against Arizona.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When he plays with that purpose and that leadership, he's an awfully good player." -- Oregon coach Dana Altman, on junior PG Malcolm Armstead, who had 12 points and 11 assists against Arizona.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Arizona State, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 9
KEY MATCHUPS: The seventh-seeded Ducks should be entirely familiar with the No. 10 Sun Devils, whom they met just six days before. Arizona State won that game 73-53, just as it won the first meeting 60-55. The Ducks must contain the Devils' perimeter shooters, who were 16-for-36 from the 3-point arc in the most recent matchup. Oregon needs to exploit Arizona State's soft inside by getting the ball to senior F Joevan Catron.
FUTURES MARKET: Sophomore F E.J. Singler, held to four points at Arizona, averaged just 8.3 ppg and shot 5-for-19 over the last three regular-season games.
--Senior F Joevan Catron's 28 points against Arizona pushed his career total to 1,007. He had just five points on 1-for-7 shooting in the 20-point loss at Arizona State.
--Junior G Garrett Sim had played well in recent weeks. He had 10 points and four assists vs. Arizona State, then 14 points at Arizona.
--Junior PG Malcolm Armstead, moved back into the starting lineup, had 12 points and 11 assists against Arizona for his first double-double of the season.
Robinson lays down the law
It's very unlikely the Beavers will be in a mood to party at the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles.
Five Oregon State players missed curfew March 3 after the team's loss at Arizona, and coach Craig Robinson sent them a clear message.
He sat down all five -- leading scorer Jared Cunningham, seniors Calvin Haynes, Lathen Wallace and Daniel Deane, and freshman Ahmad Starks -- who watched their teammates lose 80-66 to Arizona State, the Pac-10's last-place team.
Robinson did not announce the reason the players were benched, but the Oregonian reported they arrived late back to the hotel in Tucson.
Just six players suited up for the Beavers at Arizona State, and the starting lineup featured three forwards, a center and a shooting guard.
"I didn't know (about it) until we went out for the start of the game," said a surprised Arizona State coach Herb Sendek. "I had no idea. ... I saw them come out and I thought, 'Wait a minute, they're really playing big. What are they thinking?'"
Oregon State's starting group: Kevin McShane, Angus Brandt, Omari Johnson, Joe Burton and Roberto Nelson.
"I couldn't be more proud of the guys (who played)," Robinson said. "You coach kids, and it's inevitable, something happens. But hey, I'm glad we're not talking about a police report, or stuff like that."
Robinson said he learned the value of discipline at an early age.
"It's something I was raised with," Robinson said. "It happened to me growing up, and that's how I ended up staying out of trouble. It just feels better doing the right thing. ...
"I think the players in there (who didn't play) are proud of their teammates who made this a little less egregious for them by showing up the way they did."
--Oregon State outrebounded Arizona 32-23, held Wildcats star Derrick Williams to 15 points and shot 50 percent from the field, but the Beavers still lost 70-59.
--The Beavers had 22 turnovers against Arizona, then 20 more in the loss at Arizona State.
--Junior F Kevin McShane, at 6-foot-9, played shooting guard against Arizona State.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Points the Oregon State bench -- which consisted of only freshman Daniel Jones -- contributed against Arizona State.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm a boring guy." -- Oregon State freshman G Roberto Nelson, when asked why he wasn't out beyond curfew March 3 with five teammates who drew a suspension.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Stanford, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 9
KEY MATCHUPS: The Beavers and Cardinal split their regular-season games, each winning at home. Oregon State would like to tighten up its defense against Stanford, which is not usually a high-scoring team but averaged 75 points in the two meetings. A priority is to contain junior SG Jeremy Green, who averaged 21.0 ppg over the last 10 regular-season games.
FUTURES MARKET: How will the five players benched for the regular-season finale respond at the Pac-10 tournament? It's easy to imagine that sophomore G Jared Cunningham, the team's best player, will come out well-motivated. Same with freshman G Ahmad Starks. It's less clear how Calvin Haynes, Lathen Wallace and Daniel Deane -- the seniors -- might react. The next game could be their last at Oregon State, and their legacy is yet to be written.
--Freshman G Roberto Nelson scored a career-high 34 points in the loss at Arizona State, more than doubling his previous best of 15. In his previous two games, Nelson had totaled two points in 17 minutes. He shot 4-for-6 from the 3-point arc against Arizona State and made 15 of 15 free throws.
--Senior F Omari Johnson had 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Sun Devils.
--Sophomore G Jared Cunningham, one of the five Beavers benched at Arizona State, wasn't very effective at Arizona, totaling seven points and five turnovers.
Stumble at Cal leaves Stanford in danger of sub-.500 season
Just days earlier, coach Johnny Dawkins talked about how much his team had changed since its 82-68 win over rival Cal in the Jan. 2 Pac-10 opener for both teams.
The Cardinal's 74-55 loss in Berkeley wasn't what he had in mind.
Stanford could have clinched a winning season with a victory at Cal.
Now the Cardinal heads into the Pac-10 tournament as the No. 8 seed and no doubt feeling a bit shellshocked after a game that wasn't as close as the 19-point margin suggests.
Junior post Josh Owens, one week removed from scoring a career-high 31 points in a win over Oregon, managed just four at Cal.
The Cardinal's highly touted and often productive freshmen, who had been providing nearly 50 percent of the team's scoring in Pac-10 games, shot a combined 5-for-25.
Junior Jeremy Green scored 19 points, including 14 of the club's 21 points in the first half. At that point, his teammates were shooting a combined 3-for-19.
Stanford has no seniors and, presumably, a bright future. But the Cardinal doesn't want to go into the offseason with the bad taste in its mouth it must have had when leaving Berkeley.
--The Cardinal made just two of its first 14 shots while falling behind 10-2 and 19-4 at Cal. The Bears led 74-46 when they pulled their starters.
--Stanford was outscored 44-16 in the paint and 15-0 on fast-break points at Cal.
--Stanford shot 4-for-21 from the 3-point arc and missed 10 free throws against the Bears.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Points scored against Cal by Stanford's freshmen, who totaled 41 two months earlier in the Cardinal's 82-68 win over Cal.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For us, it was more important to come out and keep playing well. We didn't play the way I would have liked to have seen us play, quite frankly." -- Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, after the loss at Cal.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Oregon State, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 9
KEY MATCHUPS: Stanford cannot know the mind-set of the Oregon State team it will face. The teams split two regular-season games, but the Beavers are coming off an 80-66 loss at Arizona State in which five players were benched for missing curfew two nights earlier. Will Oregon State be fired up or ready to end the season? Either way, Stanford needs to shake off its own wretched performance against Cal and get some production from its freshmen.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshman G Anthony Brown has enjoyed a productive rookie season. He scored in double digits 14 times in the regular season, including a 21-point effort in the Cardinal's first game vs. Oregon State. He'd also shown the inconsistency that comes with being a freshman, as he had three 0-fer games in Pac-10 play. He was 2-for-11 from the field at Cal, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range, in a quiet four-point performance.
--Junior G Jeremy Green scored 19 points in the loss at Cal. He averaged 21.0 over his last 10 regular-season games.
--Freshman F Dwight Powell, who scored a career-high 20 points in the first meeting vs. Cal, had just four on 2-for-6 shooting in the rematch. He grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, but he turned the ball over three times.
--Junior walk-on F Jack Trotter, playing 20 minutes from his hometown of Moraga, Calif., had seven points and three rebounds off the bench at Cal, his best game in several weeks.
Bruins enter Pac-10 tourney off unimpressive Washington weekend
With Bruins trailing at halftime against Washington State in their Pac-10 regular-season finale, coach Ben Howland spoke a language he knew his players would understand.
He told them their NCAA Tournament hopes could be dashed over the next 20 minutes.
"I told them, 'I want you to come out with passion and intensity like this game is going to either get us in or get us out of the NCAA Tournament,'" Howland said, "because I really believe that."
It took the Bruins an extra five minutes to get the job done, but they secured second place in the Pac-10 with a 58-54 overtime victory at Pullman, Wash.
Whether or not a loss at Washington State could have dented UCLA's postseason hopes it up for grabs. But no one would have been impressed by a loss to a team playing without the league's leading scorer and starting point guard.
The Cougars were missing Klay Thompson, suspended after being cited for possession of marijuana, and Reggie Moore, who sprained an ankle two nights before.
UCLA was far from impressive for much of the afternoon at Washington State. The Bruins shot 25 percent in the first half and misfired on all eight of their 3-point tries.
But they delivered when it mattered, which was in contrast to their failure to close things out two nights earlier at Washington. UCLA led 53-49 when the Huskies ran off 14 consecutive points on the way to a 70-63 victory that ended the Bruins' chances of holding onto a share of the Pac-10 title with Arizona.
"It definitely seemed out of nowhere," Bruins guard Jerime Anderson said of Washington's 14-0 run. "I really don't know what was going on at that time."
--UCLA has lost seven straight games to Washington in Seattle.
--The Bruins shot 7-for-30 from the 3-point arc on their trip to Washington, including 2-for-17 vs. Washington State.
--UCLA freshman C Joshua Smith, who lives in nearby Kent, Wash., tried distracting Washington players by shrieking as they attempted free throws. "It's a screech-slash-birdcall-slash-dying animal," Smith said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 -- Consecutive wins by UCLA over Washington State on the Cougars' home floor in Pullman, Wash. The Bruins haven't dropped a road game to Washington State since 1993.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In their opinion, I'm a traitor." -- UCLA freshman C Joshua Smith, who grew up in the Seattle area, on the reaction of Washington fans.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GAME PREVIEW: As the No. 2 seed, the Bruins get a bye into the March 10 quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament at the Staples Center. They will play the winner of the game between No. 7 Oregon and No. 10 Arizona State. The Bruins swept both teams this season.
POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: The Bruins enter the Pac-10 tournament having lost two of their past five games. They also thumped regular-season champion Arizona 71-49 during that span. UCLA has become one of the league's top defensive teams, and the gradual emergence of freshman C Joshua Smith is a weapon opponents struggle to contain. But the Bruins must shoot better, and they need more from sophomore F Tyler Honeycutt, whose offensive production has tailed off.
FUTURES MARKET: Junior SG Malcolm Lee was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his knee after the Bruins returned home from Washington. Lee injured the knee when he landed hard late in regulation against Washington State. However, he remained in the game and made four free throws down the stretch in overtime to seal the victory.
--Sophomore F Reeves Nelson had 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in the win at Washington State. He was held to 10 points and shot 4-for-13 in the loss at Washington, and he was scoreless after halftime.
--Sophomore F Tyler Honeycutt shot 0-for-6 from the field and was held to six points and six rebounds at Washington. He didn't make a field goal in the first half at Washington State, either, then wound up with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
--Freshman C Joshua Smith had 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in the loss at Washington. It marked his first double-double in Pac-10 play. Smith had 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks vs. Washington State.
Up-and-down Trojans set for tourney run close to home
Tall but short-handed, the Trojans continue to be one of the Pac-10's most dangerous and least predictable teams.
Two nights after an 85-77 loss at Washington State, USC sealed up a tie for fourth place and the No. 4 seed for the Pac-10 tournament with a 62-60 win at Washington on March 5.
The Trojans aren't yet on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but they are a team no one wants to face. USC is the only club boasting a victory over each of the top three teams in the Pac-10 -- Arizona, UCLA and Washington.
And the Trojans charge into the Pac-10 tournament in their own town riding five wins in the past six games.
Junior forward Nikola Vucevic continues to show himself as perhaps the most worthy rival to Arizona's Derrick Williams for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds at Washington State, then 19 and 10 at Washington, giving him 20 double-doubles in the regular season, including eight in a row.
The Trojans have no depth, often playing no more than six or seven players.
Apparently, they also have no quit.
--USC led by 14 early in the second half at Washington, then held off a furious late rally for a 62-60 win.
--The Trojans shot 10-for-23 from the 3-point arc against Washington State, then just 3-for-15 at Washington.
BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- Consecutive missed 3-point attempts by USC senior G Marcus Simmons to end the regular season. He hadn't made one since Jan. 15 against Oregon State.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They shot 30 free throws (making 23). So when you foul that much and have three guys foul out, it's very hard to win." -- USC coach Kevin O'Neill after the Trojans' loss at Washington State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Cal, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 10
KEY MATCHUPS: These teams split two hard-fought regular-season games, each winning on the other team's floor. USC did a better job getting Nikola Vucevic the ball where he can operate in the second game after Cal's defense effectively bottled him up at the Galen Center. USC had the advantage of facing Cal without Allen Crabbe when the teams met in Berkeley. Crabbe, sidelined then by a concussion, scored 50 points in Cal's last two regular-season games.
FUTURES MARKET: The Trojans are almost certain to face a zone defense against Cal, which should give them some perimeter scoring opportunities. The Bears have switched back to man-to-man more often in recent games, convinced it sparks an aggressive tone. But they don't match up with USC's size and likely will try to surround Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson with a zone. That should appeal to senior Donte Smith, who made eight 3-pointers and scored 24 points in the first Cal game, and freshman Maurice Jones, who made five 3s and scored 22 in the rematch.
--Junior F Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the win at Washington and was averaging 20.6 points and 11.6 rebounds during a stretch of eight straight double-doubles through March 5.
--Junior G Jio Fontan had one of his best games with the Trojans in the win at Washington, scoring 20 points and hitting 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.
--Senior G Marcus Simmons, a defensive specialist, was scoreless at Washington. Through March 5, he had not reached double figures since scoring 11 vs. Texas on Dec. 5.
Huskies search for answers to inconsistency
It's not just everyone else wondering what's wrong with Washington.
The Huskies are wondering, too.
The overwhelming pick to win the Pac-10 title, Washington lost at home twice in a three-game stretch after a 13-0 start at Alaska Airlines Arenas, and the Huskies finished the Pac-10 regular season in third place.
Not where they wanted to be.
"It's March," junior co-captain Isaiah Thomas said after Washington's 62-60 loss to USC on March 5. "No more excuses. Everybody has to be held accountable for what they're doing. Same as me.
"We've just got to really be ready and really be focused. One game at a time and try to make some noise."
For the past three weeks, Washington has followed each victory with a defeat. There is no consistency with the team that scored 100 points six times this season.
The Huskies can show grit and timely play, such as March 3, when they scored 14 straight points down the stretch to claim a 70-63 win over a UCLA team that was tied for the conference lead.
Then they fell behind by 14 points early in the second half to a USC squad that doesn't have the same manpower as Washington.
"I couldn't explain it," Thomas said. "If I could, there wouldn't be no slow starts. We've just got to be mentally ready. I don't know if it's even that. The first four to eight minutes we've got to pound teams and take the first punch.
"I feel like we've been letting them take the punch the last couple of games, and it's hurting us because we keep digging ourselves a deep hole."
--The Huskies failed to convert 40 percent of their shots against either UCLA or USC, and they went 2-for-16 from the 3-point arc against USC.
--The Huskies averaged well over 90 points in their first 13 home games, including six outings in which they topped 100 points. But they scored at just 66.3 ppg clip their three final home games vs. Washington State, UCLA and USC.
--Washington held UCLA scoreless for 4 1/2 minutes while transforming a 53-49 deficit into a 63-53 lead in the Huskies' 70-63 victory.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 --Points totaled by senior F Matthew Bryan-Amaning in games vs. UCLA and USC after he'd averaged 21 in four previous games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is the end of the year, we should be playing at a high level every time we step on the floor. Usually at the end of the year, we're playing pretty consistent basketball. This year we haven't as much." -- Washington coach Lorenzo Romar.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Washington State, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 10
KEY MATCHUPS: The Huskies have a score to settle with the Cougars. Two, actually. Washington State beat its rival twice this season and is in position to defeat Washington three straight times in the same season, as it did four years ago. Washington junior G Isaiah Thomas said he and his teammates must find the proper motivation or go home. "We've just got to turn the page and really be ready for this Pac-10 tournament and try to make some noise," he said after the loss to USC. "It's do or die. If you don't bring it, you're out."
FUTURES MARKET: Redshirt freshman G C.J. Wilcox was spectacular in the Huskies' win over UCLA, scoring all of his career-high 24 points in the second half. "You talk about what's at stake tonight, and he comes in and gets 24 in the second half. That's a performance I'll never forget," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "That's one of the greatest performances maybe in the history of the program." Wilcox shot 7-for-8 from the field and made all six of his free throws.
Then he went silent against USC, shooting 1-for-7, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range, in a four-point performance.
--Junior G Isaiah Thomas had 26 points against USC but shot just 5-for-13 and was 8-for-25 on the weekend against the L.A. schools. Thomas missed all six of his 3-point tries in the two games.
--Senior F Justin Holiday shot 0-for-6 in a scoreless effort vs. USC and was 1-for-14 on the weekend.
--Junior G Scott Suggs, back after missing three games with an injury, scored 14 points off the bench against USC. He made six of eight shots.
Without Thompson, did Cougars' NCAA hopes go up in smoke?
Klay Thompson apologized. But his words were too late.
Two days after being cited for possession of 1.95 grams of marijuana in his vehicle and the day after being suspended by his coach for the Cougars' Pac-10 finale, Thompson took the microphone March 5 before a Senior Day crowd at Friel Court and offered, "I let you down."
Presumably, he first said those same words to his teammates, who then battled second-place UCLA into overtime before losing 58-54.
The Cougars had hoped to climb onto the NCAA Tournament bubble with a victory. Already the assignment was going to be a difficult one without starting point guard Reggie Moore, who sprained his ankle two nights before against USC and was wearing a boot.
Thompson's lack of judgment only made the job tougher.
Mychal Thompson, his father and the first pick in the 1978 NBA Draft, was disappointed by his son's poor choice.
"I told him, 'Klay, we've all been there, we've all been to college and had friends and teammates who smoked dope.' I've been in that situation many, many times and chose not to do it," Mychal Thompson told the Seattle Times.
"You've got to be better than that, you've got to be smarter. I told him I was extremely disappointed in him. He let the team down, he let the school down, and he let himself and his family down.
"I'm at a loss for words."
Thompson, the Pac-10's top scorer, is considering whether to enter the NBA Draft this spring. The transgression may or may not weigh on the minds of some NBA front-office execs.
That aside, it was no help to a team scrambling for its postseason life.
--Klay Thompson was scheduled to receive a date to appear in Whitman County District Court within two weeks to face a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. His car was impounded, then released to him the next morning.
--Thompson is the second Washington State player cited for marijuana possession this season. Sophomore PG Reggie Moore was cited in December and a month later served a one-game, team-imposed suspension.
--Washington State shot 54.7 percent from the field and made 23 of 30 free throws in its 85-77 win over USC.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 -- Consecutive home defeats by the Cougars to UCLA. Washington State has not beaten the Bruins in Pullman since 1993.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Not a lot of people thought we could win this game, but everyone in that locker room thought we could do it." -- Senior walk-on G Ben Loewen, who played a career-high 21 minutes in the overtime loss to UCLA.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Washington, Pac-10 tournament first round, Los Angeles, March 10
KEY MATCHUPS: The Cougars swept the regular-season series from Washington and can make it three in a row in the same year for the first time since 2007. Washington State must regroup emotionally after the uproar caused by Klay Thompson's suspension, and the status of PG Reggie Moore (ankle) is unclear. One thing is certain: If Washington State harbors any hopes of making a dash toward the NCAA Tournament, it must win this game.
FUTURES MARKET: Coach Ken Bone, searching for a way to level the playing field against UCLA without starters Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore, changed tactics to catch the Bruins off guard. The Cougars ran a high-post offense with frequent back-cuts to the basket, and on defense played a scramble with traps and double-teams. Bone also inserted into the lineup senior walk-on Ben Loewen, who had played just 34 minutes all season. It all added up to Washington State taking the league's second-best team into overtime.
--Junior G Faisal Aden, who normally serves as the sixth man, started and scored 14 points against UCLA, but he shot just 4-for-17. He was 24-for-83 (28.9 percent) over the last eight regular-season games.
--Junior PF DeAngelo Casto shot 10-for-11 and had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the win over USC. He had just nine points vs. UCLA, snapping a run of seven straight double-digit scoring games.
--Sophomore F Brock Motum scored 15 points off the bench against UCLA, just his second double-figure scoring game in Pac-10 play.
Pac-10 Round-Up, Tournament Preview
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