March 21, 2002
GAME: No. 3 Arizona (24-9) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (29-4).
REGIONAL: West, Regional Semifinals.
TIME: Thursday, 7:55 p.m. EST.
SITE: The Compaq Center, San Jose, Calif.
Arizona's Luke Walton emerged this season as one of the nation's top forwards. Oklahoma's Aaron McGhee is finally starting to get the same kind of recognition.
Walton and the third-seeded Wildcats look to slow down the red-hot McGhee and conquer the stifling defense of the second-seeded Sooners in a West Regional semifinal matchup.
The son of former UCLA and NBA great Bill Walton already was well known heading into this season thanks simply to familial ties. The younger Walton garnered further notice as he became one of the nation's most versatile big men, leading Arizona in assists and rebounding for much of the season and finishing second in scoring.
The 6-foot-8 junior scored 21 points, including two clutch baskets down the stretch, and had nine rebounds Saturday as Arizona advanced to the round of 16 with a 68-60 win over Wyoming.
While Walton was one of 20 finalists for the Wooden Award, McGhee couldn't even get All-America honorable mention despite finishing as Oklahoma's top rebounder and second-leading scorer. However, he has been one of the biggest stars of the tournament.
The 6-foot-8 senior has averaged 25.5 points in the first two games - fourth-highest among players still alive - and 7.8 rebounds.
"What you're seeing now, this kid always had that," Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson said. "This is not a surprise to any of us."
McGhee, who could spend time chasing down Walton, has also helped Oklahoma's defense surrender an average of just 64 points in the first two rounds. The Sooners have held the opposition to 36.7 percent from the field and collected 15 steals.
"Defensively, they really get after you hard," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "They get into you hard and once you catch the ball, it's a case of you'd better set good screens and you'd better make good cuts and stay active throughout the possession."
Oklahoma's focus on defense will center on Walton and Jason Gardner, who scored 28 points in the Wildcats' first-round win over UC Santa Barbara. The junior point guard has 13 assists and only four turnovers in the tournament.
Another option on offense emerged last week, with freshman center Channing Frye totaling 34 points and 18 rebounds in Arizona's two wins.
For the Sooners, McGhee is complemented on the outside by leading scorer Hollis Price and Ebi Ere, who scored 20 points in the second-round win over Xavier.
While the Widcats are making their fifth round of 16 appearance in seven years, the Sooners are looking to advance to a regional final for the first time since 1998. That year, Oklahoma beat Arizona in the Final Four before losing to Kansas in the national title game.
The winner this time will be facing a lower-seeded team in the regional final, either No. 8 UCLA or No. 12 Missouri.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Arizona - F Rick Anderson (12.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), F Walton (15.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.2 apg), C Frye (9.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg), G Salim Stoudamire (12.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg), G Gardner (20.5 ppg, 4.6 apg). Oklahoma - F McGhee (15.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg), C Jabahri Brown (4.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg), G Ere (14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), G Quannas White (7.9 ppg, 4.7 apg), G Price (16.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.6 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Arizona - Automatic bid, Pac-10 Conference champion, defeated UC Santa Barbara 86-81, first round, defeated Wyoming 68-60, second round. Oklahoma - Automatic bid, Big 12 Conference champion, defeated Illinois-Chicago 71-63, first round, defeated Xavier 78-65, second round.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Arizona - 34-19, 21 years. Oklahoma - 25-20, 21 years.