Pac-10 Tournament roundup
USC knocks out Cal to reach championship gamePosted: Friday March 14, 2003 11:47 PM
Updated: Saturday March 15, 2003 3:21 AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Just a week ago, Southern California needed to beat Washington State just to qualify for the Pac-10 Conference tournament.
Now, they're one win away from an improbable berth in the NCAA tournament.
Desmon Farmer scored 23 points and the seventh-seeded Trojans led all the way in beating No. 24 California 79-62 Friday night.
The Trojans (13-16) will face Oregon in Saturday's championship game at Staples Center. The fifth-seeded Ducks (22-9) advanced by outscoring UCLA 13-1 in the last three minutes for a 75-74 victory.
"It's our chance to get to the Big Dance," Farmer said with a wide grin. "Everyone wants to get there. We're ready to roll, we're not worried about losing."
USC lost seven straight games before beating Washington State 86-68 in its regular-season finale to lock up a berth in the tournament. The Trojans upset No. 15 Stanford 79-74 in the first round.
"We've played well all year," USC head coach Henry Bibby said. "I thought we had a chance to beat Stanford twice and I thought we had a chance to beat Cal twice. It didn't work out.
"We've played with a lot of young players. It's a new season, anything can happen. I think we're going in with a lot of momentum."
The Trojans reached the conference final last year, losing to Arizona 81-71 in the championship game.
"We went in last year with a better basketball team," Bibby admitted. "This one's playing harder, though."
Snubbed for the 10-member all-conference team despite being the league's fourth-leading scorer, Farmer also had five rebounds, five assists and two steals in 28 minutes.
Jerry Dupree had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Trojans and brought the announced crowd of 16,689 to its feet with several impressive dunks.
"I feel right now the tournament is ours," he said.
Derrick Craven added 11 points and five steals and Rory O'Neil and Robert Hutchinson scored 10 points each for USC, which committed only eight turnovers while forcing 21.
"I knew we had a good basketball team, we've shown signs of it," O'Neil said. "We knew we had to play our best ball in the tournament. If we play defense and rebound, we feel like we can beat anybody."
Joe Shipp led the short-handed Bears (21-8) with 19 points -- all but three in the second half. Amit Tamir and Richard Midgley added 10 points apiece.
Brian Wethers, Cal's third-leading scorer with a 15.2-point average, scored five points in 12 minutes. He sat out the second half because of tendinitis in his right Achilles' tendon.
The third-seeded Bears also played without reserve guard A.J. Diggs, who sprained his left ankle in the second half of Cal's 69-46 first-round victory over Oregon State.
"USC is a high-energy team, our two high-energy guys were sitting on the bench," Cal head coach Ben Braun said, referring to Wethers and Diggs. "Those guys have played some of their best basketball against USC."
Shipp didn't hide his disappointment after USC snapped a four-game losing streak to Cal and beat the Bears for just the third time in the last 13 games between the teams.
"We were so close, we had two guys that were injured and that really affected us," he said. "We haven't had two guys out before."
The Bears are a lock to be selected for the NCAA tournament despite this loss.
A 3-pointer by O'Neil with 15:07 remaining gave the Trojans a 52-33 lead, but Shipp, the Pac-10's scoring leader, scored seven straight to draw Cal within 12.
USC scored the next six points for a 58-40 lead, and the Bears didn't threaten again. The Trojans led by as many as 24 points.
USC took a 14-4 lead in the opening 6 1/2 minutes, and a basket by O'Neil made it 18-6 midway through the first half.
Midgley scored five points during a 9-0 run that moved the Bears within three, but the Trojans responded by outscoring the Bears 15-2 for a 33-17 lead. Farmer, Hutchinson, O'Neil and Roy Smiley made 3-pointers during the spurt.
Shipp, who has scored in double figures in each of Cal's 29 games, made a 3-pointer for his first points with 3:22 left before halftime, cutting USC's lead to 36-24.
Oregon 75, UCLA 74
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- UCLA blew a late 11-point lead against Oregon and with it any chance of saving head coach Steve Lavin's job.
Luke Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left Friday night in the Pac-10 Conference tournament semifinals, lifting the Ducks to a 75-74 victory.
Asked if it was his last game at UCLA, Lavin replied, "Let's put it this way, I'm probably not up for national or Pac-10 coach of the year honors."
Lavin didn't directly answer a question about what he's been told about his job status. "I've been told a lot of things over my time at UCLA," he said.
Jackson's basket capped a 13-1 run in the final three minutes by the Ducks (22-9), who advanced to Saturday's final against the winner of the No. 24 California-Southern California semifinal later Friday.
"I just kept telling them they were going to win the game," Oregon head coach Ernie Kent said.
Pac-10 player of the year Luke Ridnour led the fifth-seeded Ducks with 16 points -- his 31st straight game in double figures. James Davis added 15 points and Jackson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
"We didn't play very well, but we kept fighting," said Ridnour, who only made two baskets in the second half.
Dijon Thompson led the eighth-seeded Bruins (10-19) with 23 points and senior Ray Young added 21 in the final game of his college career. Senior Jason Kapono, UCLA's offensive star, was held to five points, shooting just 2-of-10.
"He [Lavin] put all the blame on himself. In reality, it was our fault," Thompson said. "I don't think we played smart. It was like a nightmare. They started hitting 3s, it happens. We know we should have won the game. He wished us the best."
A victory would have put UCLA one win away from a most unlikely berth in the NCAA tournament. Instead, the Bruins concluded their first losing season in 55 years, which is expected to cost Lavin his job after seven years. He has a 145-78 record and took the Bruins to the final 16 of the NCAA tournament five times.
"I don't think this past year should take away our three straight Sweet 16 runs," Kapono said. "Coach Lavin has done a great job here. He's hung through tough stretches when they were calling for his head and we were one 3-pointer short of going to the finals."
The loss also ended UCLA's streak of 14 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.
A day after rallying from 15 points down to stun No. 1 Arizona 96-89 in overtime, the Bruins seemed in command most of the way against the Ducks.
A basket by freshman Ryan Hollins with 3:12 remaining gave UCLA a 73-62 lead.
Davis hit a 3-pointer nine seconds later, triggering a 10-0 run that he capped with another 3-pointer that drew the Ducks within one with 1:17 left.
Young threw up an airball, Thompson grabbed it and got fouled. He made one of two as UCLA clung to a 74-72 lead with 40 seconds to play.
Ridnour missed a 3-pointer, but teammate Robert Johnson tipped the rebound back to him and he passed to Jackson, who connected from the top of the key.
Young shot an off-balance jumper from the right baseline in front of the Bruins' bench with the clock winding down. The ball hit the rim and bounced away, along with UCLA's hopes of turning around this forgettable season.
"It was what the defense gave me. I was fading away. I had a clean look," said Young, whose 3-pointer forced overtime against Arizona. "I felt I could knock it down. Just today it didn't go down. I kind of take the fall for my team."
Lavin expects to be fired as the result of the losing season at a school that has won 11 national championships -- 10 under John Wooden and most recently under Jim Harrick in 1995.
"I just wish the outcome of this game was a positive one," he said. "I really wanted to see Jason and Ray finish their careers the way they deserved to. I'm sorry I couldn't do something to help us."
Lavin spent some private moments with his team in their locker room afterward.
"He told us to prepare for next year, just build on this," Hollins said. "He wasn't in tears, but he was emotional while he was talking."
Lavin was an unproven assistant when he was elevated to head coach after Harrick was fired just before the start of the 1996-97 season. He's endured almost constant criticism every season from alumni and students starved for another banner to hang in Pauley Pavilion.
"He went through so much, every day it was a media circus. They
were just hunting him all year," sophomore Andre Patterson said.
"He kept his head. That's what I'm grateful about. I'm thankful