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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Arizona beats Trojans, advances to Pac-10 Title game”

Arizona beats Trojans, advances to Pac-10 Title game

Behind a 20-point, six-rebound performance by forward Derrick Williams, the Arizona Wildcats played just enough defense on USC’s big men to defeat the Trojans 67-62 Friday, advancing to the final game of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament.

Arizona will face the winner of the Oregon and Washington contest, which is scheduled to tip tomorrow at 3 p.m. Pacific Time.

The Trojans, coached by assistant Bob Cantu after head coach Kevin O’Neill was suspended, came out with energy.

Trojan guard Donte Smith hit a 3-pointer in transition as USC took its first lead of the game right before the first media timeout, putting the Trojans ahead 12-9.

Letting the Pac-10 defensive player of the year Marcus Simmons have face up shots on the perimeter and sinking down on defense, Simmons made the Wildcats pay. He scored eight of the first 15 Trojan points and finished with 20 on 7-for-10 shooting.

With four total turnovers, the Wildcats had one of the cleaner first halves of the season.

Williams and forward Jesse Perry, who scored 11, took dribble drives into the lane. Perry scored six points in the first 12 minutes, and despite pressure from USC’s Simmons on UA point guard Momo Jones, the Harlem native scored five points and recorded two assists and no turnovers.

In the first half, Arizona shot only 41 percent to the Trojans’ 55 percent from the field as UA led USC 33-28 at halftime.

Out of the media break and with under 14 minutes to play, back-up guard Jordin Mayes hit a 3-pointer as his man left him on a steal attempt to give the Wildcats a 45-36 lead. He hit another with 12:38 and Arizona led by 12.

Mayes connected on a floater afterward for Arizona’s seventh and eighth points in a row. The spurt was indicative of Arizona’s bench superiority, where they outscored the Trojans 23-4.

At the same time as Mayes’ offensive spurts, center Kyryl Natyazhko helped keep USC forwards Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson in check, bothering their shots and tipping potential offensive rebounds away from the Trojan big men.

Two Vucevic free throws pulled USC within three points, 58-55, with three minutes to play.

But on the next possession, senior Jamelle Horne hit a long 3-pointer on the right wing and with the shot clock winding down. Forward Solomon Hill threw a lob to Williams, who was being fronted, and an alley-oop dunk put Arizona on top 63-57 with 1:38 remaining.

USC guard Jio Fontan hit a 3-pointer with under a minute to play to cut that lead in half.

With 20 seconds remaining, Williams drove, drew a foul and hit both free throws to put Arizona on top 65-60. Vucevic found himself open for a lay-up after the USC offense got Arizona in scramble mode, but it went in leaving just 4.7 seconds on the clock.

Williams would hit two more free throws after receiving the inbounds pass and that left no time on the clock.

Check back later for more stories about Arizona’s strategy to defend USC’s big men and USC coach Kevin O’Neill’s absence.

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