March 9, 2002
Date: Saturday, March 9, 2002 Time: 3 p.m. PST Location: Staples Center (19,282), Los Angeles, Calif. Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen) TV: CBS-TV (Dick Enberg/Matt Goukas)
GAME DATA: Fifteenth-ranked Arizona (21-9, 12-6 Pac-10) advanced to the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament for the fourth consecutive time with a 90-78 win over California on Friday ... The Wildcats, seeded No. 2 in the tournament, will face No. 4 seed USC (22-8, 12-6 Pac-10) in Saturday's title tilt ... Friday's win over Cal gave the Cats a three-game season sweep over the Golden Bears, marking the first time since 1990 that Arizona has won three games in a single season against a league foe ... Arizona has now won 11 consecutive Pac-10 Tournament games dating back to 1988 and is the only school to have appeared in four consecutive Pac-10 Tournament title games ... Since 1996-97, Arizona is 27-9 (.750) in the month of March.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH LUTE OLSON . . . is in his 19th season at Arizona and his 29th overall as a college head coach with a career record of 660-234 (.738) and 468-142 (.767) at Arizona ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention and Jay John ...Olson is 31-10 vs. USC.
LAST TIME OUT: Arizona shot a season-best 57.9 percent from the floor and turned 16 California turnovers into 23 points in defeating the Golden Bears, 90-78, in the Pac-10 Tournament semifinals. Once again, the duo of Luke Walton and Jason Gardner led the way, combining for 45 points and shot 51.6 percent from the floor (16-of-31). Turnovers proved to be the difference, as UA committed just eight miscues. Sparked by the play of Will Bynum, the UA bench outscored Cal 20-8.
THE SERIES: Today's game marks the 78th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 45-32 series advantage. The Wildcats have won six of the last eight games in the series, which dates back to 1922, but dropped a 94-89 win in Los Angeles on Feb. 16. See page 87 in the UA media guide for more series information.
LAST MEETING: USC 94, Arizona 89, Feb. 16, 2002. Keyed by David Bluthenthal, USC scored on its final 12 possessions and handed Arizona a five-point defeat. Bluthenthal scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half in leading the Trojans back from a seven-point deficit with 11:34 to go. He hit five of six from behind the arc after the break, including 11 points in a span of 3:25 late in the half. Once again, rebounding proved problematic for the Cats, as USC posted a 16-8 rebound advantage on the offensive glass.
QUICK HITS: Arizona is 13-1 when outrebounding the opposition this season ... The Cats are 14-2 when ahead at the break ... UA is 17-1 when outshooting the opposition ... Friday's 12-point win was the team's 10th this season by 10 points or more ... Arizona now has 11 wins all-time in Pac-10 Tournament play. No other league member has more than six.
STREAK STOPPED: Jason Gardner saw his consecutive free throw streak end at 32, which was seven shy of the school record. The streak did boost his season free throw percentage to over 80 percent, though, at 80.3 (167-208). That ranks him second on the squad behind Salim Stoudamire's 91.3 percentage.
BEATEN ON THE GLASS: Arizona was able to earn a victory Friday despite being outboarded, 38-23, by California. On the season, Arizona is 8-8 when tied or outrebounded. The last time UA was victorious and outrebounded came on Feb. 7 vs. Washington.
20-WIN PLATEAU: Thursday's win over Arizona State gave the Wildcats its 20th win of the year, which extends its current streak to 15 consecutive years with 20 or more wins. It is Olson's 24th 20-win season in 29 years as a college head coach.
SHOT SELECTION: Over his last seven games, Jason Gardner is shooting 53.8 percent (49-of-91) from the field and 52.8 percent from three-point range (28-of-53). The late-season push leaves him just two treys away from becoming just the third player in school history to make 100 or more three-point field goals in a single season, joining Steve Kerr (1988) and Damon Stoudamire (1995).
CARRYING THE LOAD: Luke Walton's 25-point night Friday was the junior's 21st double-figure scoring game this season. It was also his eighth 20-point effort of 2001-01. He also chipped in with six assists, five boards and four steals. Walton has tallied at least six assists in 12 of his last 16 games. He is averaging 15.7 points and 6.3 assists per game. Walton now has scored 423 points in 2001-02, which is 32 points higher than his career total entering this season.
MOVING UP: Jason Gardner enters play tonight with 1,445 career points, which ties him for 15th place on the all-time UA scoring list with Steve Kerr. Just ahead of the guard from Indianapolis is Steve Kerr, who tallied 1,461 points from 1996-99. Incidentally, Gardner has 72 double-figure scoring games in his 100-game career. He also became just the 10th player (accomplished 13 times) in UA history to score 600 points in a single-season in the ASU game Thursday.
HEATING UP: Through two games of the postseason, Arizona is shooting 52.8 percent from the floor (57-of-108), bolstered by Friday's season-high .579 effort vs. California. While it isn't surprising that Jason Gardner (.545) and Luke Walton (.559) lead the club, freshman Will Bynum is eye-opening. Bynum is shooting 58.3 percent from the floor (7-of-12) in the two tournament games, which is the best mark on the ballclub. In fact, his .583 FG percentage is 23.1 percent higher than his season FG percentage.
LIKE WEARING WHITE: With No. 4 seed USC advancing to Saturday's championship, Arizona is now assured of wearing its white jerseys for the 13th consecutive time in Pac-10 Tournament play. All told, Arizona has never worn anything but its home whites in any of the five editions of the Pac-10 Tournament.
POSITIVE RATIOS: Arizona posted a positive assist:turnover ratio Friday vs. California (13:8), which usually indicates success. This season, Arizona is 12-4 when posting a positive assist:turnover ratio.
A RARITY: California shot 50.8 percent from the floor Friday, marking the sixth time this season that a UA opponent has topped the 50 percent plateau. UA is 3-3 in those games. Washington was the last club to turn the trick (.500) on Feb. 7, though the Huskies lost that game.
SOLID EFFORT: Freshman Dennis Latimore turned in his most confident performances of the season Friday, totaling six points and a rebound in 15 minutes of action. Latimore hit 3-of-4 shots from the floor and was a valuable addition to the frontline rotation.
NEUTRAL SITES: Friday's win upped Arizona's record to 6-0 this season in neutral-site games. Additionally, the Cats are 6-0 in tournament games in 2001-02, having already won the Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic in November and the Fiesta Bowl Classic honoring Bobbi Olson in December.
AGAINST THE BEST: The Wildcats finished the regular season 9-6 against nationally-ranked opponents and have faced ranked opponents in five of its last six games. All told, 50 percent of Arizona's 2001-02 opponents have been ranked nationally at the time of the game. USC enters Saturday's final with a No. 22 ranking by the Associated Press.
TOP CAT: UA finished the Pac-10 slate with a 12-6 record, marking the 16th time in the last 17 seasons that the Cats have won at least 12 conference games, a feat matched by no other league foe. Dating back to the 1984-85 campaign, Arizona has averaged 15 wins per season. The only time in that span that Arizona failed to win at least 12 league games was 1996-97, the year the Cats won the national championship.
400 CLUB: If the numbers hold up, the 2001-02 edition of the Arizona Wildcats has a chance to accomplish a rare statistical feat: have four players score at least 400 points in a single season. Jason Gardner (600 points) and Luke Walton (403) are already over the mark, while Salim Stoudamire (378) and Rick Anderson (377) are each within 23 points of 400. Obviously, the Cats would need to play a few more games, but it is possible that this club could join the 1999-2000 team as the only two to do it since 1987-88.
EARLY SIGNEES: Coach Olson and his staff signed two student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent during the November Early Signing Period. Hassan Adams (G, 6-4, 205) from Los Angeles, Calif., Westchester High School and Chris Rodgers (G, 6-4, 190) from Portland, Ore., Woodrow Wilson High School will join the squad next fall.
UP NEXT: Arizona awaits word on participation in its 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament.