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USC, Arizona Advance to Pac-10 Title Game
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/09/2002
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 9, 2002

By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES - Feeling cheated by two close losses to Pac-10 champion Oregon, Southern California was determined not to let the Ducks take the league tournament title, too.

The 22nd-ranked Trojans made sure the No. 9 Ducks won't be hoisting a trophy in Los Angeles, winning 89-78 Friday night in the Pac-10 semifinals.

Fourth-seeded USC finished in a four-way tie for second place during the regular season, losing at Oregon by four points and by two points a week ago in Los Angeles.

"We felt that Oregon took the championship away from us," said Jerry Dupree, one of six Trojans in double figures with 12 points.

In the other semifinal, 15th-ranked Arizona defeated No. 25 California 90-78.

Saturday's final at Staples Center will feature USC (22-8) and Arizona (21-9), which split two games this season.

"They're playing better than anybody in the country," Arizona guard Jason Gardner said of the Trojans. "The main thing is we've got to keep them off the glass, not commit too many turnovers."

The tournament winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, although six Pac-10 teams could be invited when pairings are announced Sunday.

"SC is a great team," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. "They've got a chance to go deep in the NCAA tournament, and so do we."

The loss ended a six-game winning streak for top-seeded Oregon (23-8), the Pac-10 regular-season champion for the first time in 57 years.

Dupree cracked USC's starting lineup for just the fifth time this season. His athletic play produced 10 points and sparked the Trojans against Stanford on Thursday.

Against Oregon, Dupree had three assists, two blocked shots and two steals in 31 minutes. Coach Henry Bibby decided 1{ hours before tip-off to start the sophomore, who's in his first season at USC.

"It's been a rough year, I wasn't doing the things I was supposed to do," said Dupree, who spent a year at a junior college to improve his grades.

"Coach Bibby wanted me to play a certain way. I had a reality check to understand."

The Trojans improved to 7-0 when at least five players score in double figures. Brandon Granville and reserve Desmon Farmer had 17 points each. Sam Clancy added 16, Errick Craven 14 and David Bluthenthal 13.

USC made all of its 22 free throws, a Pac-10 record.

The Trojans' full-court pressure forced the Ducks into 21 turnovers, including nine by Luke Ridnour. The Trojans put the game away by outscoring Oregon 26-10 over the final 11{ minutes.

"If we can play defense like we did tonight, we're going to be fine down the road," Bibby said.

Frederick Jones led Oregon with 20 points. Ridnour added 18, and Luke Jackson 16.

"In the second half we slowed ourselves down too much," Kent said. "We didn't attack their press enough. I thought they had the momentum the entire second half. We weren't getting the stops."

Trailing by seven points, USC took the lead for good with a 20-3 run while the Ducks went 5 minutes without scoring. Clancy, Dupree and Craven each had six points, including several baskets off Oregon's miscues.

In the second semifinal, Arizona had a great shooting night for the third time in as many games against the Golden Bears this season, and it resulted in another victory.

Jason Gardner scored 25 points, Luke Walton added 20 and the Wildcats made 33-of-57 shots (57.9 percent).

Arizona shot 54.8 percent in beating the Bears 68-58 at Haas Pavilion on Jan. 31 - Cal's only loss at home in 18 games - and 48.5 percent in a stunning 99-53 victory in Tucson, Ariz., last Saturday, the second-worst loss in Cal history.

"I think the problem for them with us is when we've moved the ball, we've been able to get good shots," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "I don't think that's happened with too many teams who've played them."

In Cal's 28 regular-season games, its opponents made only 41.1 percent of their shots.

"Basically, they just flat-out hit shots," said Cal's Brian Wethers, who scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half. "There's something about Arizona that brings out poor defense in us."

Arizona has won seven straight and 10 of 11 over Cal.

Joe Shipp scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half to lead the Bears, who outrebounded Arizona 38-23 but committed 16 turnovers to only eight for the Wildcats.

"The obvious area we have to get solved is we were a very bad defensive rebounding team, and SC rebounds as well as anybody off the offensive boards," Olson said. "We've got to get that straightened out.

"We had 16 defensive rebounds and Cal had 15 offensive rebounds. Those are bad numbers."

Cal, which never led, drew within six points with 3:35 remaining on Shipp's second straight basket, but Walton scored four points in a 6-1 Arizona run that clinched the victory.

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