Friday, March 13, 2009

USC 65, UCLA 55, What an atmosphere!!

The Trojans withstood a late UCLA rally and hit free throws late for a 10-point win and a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament with one more win -- over Arizona State. This was an intense battle and the atmosphere was amazing and there was even a fight in the stands to display the bitterness. The Staples Center, which had been pretty quiet all weekend, was rocking and the Trojans never relinquished the lead.

(USC freshman DeMar DeRozan talks with a television reporter after the victory while the UCLA players walk off the court after the defeat).

UCLA's performance is disturbing, considering the Bruins were rather flat against Washington State and haven't been dominating since the middle of the Pac-10 season. Josh Shipp led the Bruins with 19 points and Nikola Dragovic added 12 but besides Shipp, the Bruins were 9-for-54 from the field (16 percent).

USC is playing like it was expected to in the beginning of the season, DeMar DeRozan was sparkling with 21 points and 13 rebounds and outclassed buddy Jrue Holiday in front of a bevy of NBA scouts.

Dwight Lewis hit some big shots early and helped the Trojans race out to a first-half lead while USC won the game in the second half with defense, taking 20 fewer shots than its opponents.

We will have more on this game and a preview of the ASU-USC game upcoming.

Washington Quotes following 75-65 loss to ASU


"I felt the stepped up and hit big shots. Derek Glasser hit big shots. Jeff Pendergraph hit some big shots. They came through when they needed to.

"I thought we came out with great energy on the defense end. I thought we were rotating well and moving our feet. We were quick to the ball. Arizona State did a good job at maintaining their poise throughout that and they just chipped away and chipped away. And we struggled putting the ball in the basket early and with that combination they were able to slowly jump out in front of us.

"We talked more about our lack of aggressiveness. We were the more tentative team of the two in the first half. That’s some of the things I thought we tried to address in the first half, coming out with a little more fight. We talked about our shot selection, which at times bites us in the butt."

(on the scuffle)

“Just guys competing, we’re playing hard, sometimes bodies get banged around and feelings get hurt I guess you could say. Sometimes games just get heated like that.


“I haven’t seen the replay or anything but I thought what went on is the same thing that goes on in practice. Like Jon said, two teams really competing at that point, really competing and neither wanted to give the edge to the other. I don’t think anyone lost control. I just think it was two teams competing really hard.


"We knew they were going to come out and play hard. We said it’s going to be a war, a fight couple break out. We knew it could be one of those heated games where bodies were banging against each other."


“One, two, three, NO. When you’re playing out there and competing, you’re not thinking of getting one out of the way.

"We expect to be part of the (NCAA Field). Where we’ll go and how high we’ll be seeded, I think that’s in the committee’s hands. We’re fortunate that we have the opportunity on Sunday that our name is going to be called. Wherever we’re sent, whomever we are going to play, we just have to make the best of it.”

Arizona State quotes following 75-65 win

Arizona State player and coach reaction following 75-65 win over Washington:


"It was just a great competitive game. Washington’s a great and competitive as well. So it was just a great game. Guys were playing hard. I don’t know what happened but guys were just playing hard.

"Washington is a great team and we knew they were going to make a run and all we had to do is keep our composure and just settle down and get great shots on offense and do what we do on defense and I think we did a pretty good job of that.

Coach (Sendek) has a lot of course and he trusts in us a lot and we were short so we just had to play hard and do what we do. We’re in condition to play 40 minutes each games so guys stepped up late in the game and made big shots and big free throws and kept our composure and got it done.

He’s a great defender. He’s a guy you don’t want to play against. He’s a great person, a great defender. I have nothing but respect for him. He’s just one of those guys. You’ll be on the court with him and you’re kind of nervous about it. I have nothing but full respect for him and he’s a great player.


"Like I said there’s great coaching, great players here so I wanted to stay here and not be one of those one-and-done guys who just got to the NBA. I needed a lot more to learn a lot more. I think I’ve matured a lot more in the past year and we’re doing some pretty good things at Arizona State and hopefully we can keep it up."


"Right now, I don’t think we’re worried about the NCAA Tournament. We’re in a tournament and the goal right now is to win it. We’re not looking too far ahead. That’s not how you win championships. Right now we’re excited to be going to the championship tomorrow and does feel a lot better to know that after tomorrow we’re going to be comfortable on selection Sunday."


"I really didn’t make any adjustments (after Washington's rallies). We just talked about maintaining our poise and composure and giving great effort. We talked about the need to try to get some stops because it seemed like Washington was scoring every single time down the floor. We had the lead in large part at the half because of our defense and it had evaporated. And we talked about hunkering down on defense and maintaining our composure.

"I think it’s important for us to stay in the moment and enjoy what just happened and get our rest and just try to recover as much as we can."


"Whenever things hit the fan and everybody is booing him, just hating on him and he uses that and it just boosts him through the roof. He starts getting stops. He takes care of the ball. He starts finding open people. He just steps it up and that’s a credit to being a big-time point guard."


"It’s been an adventure. Every year both of us get better and it’s a showdown every time. You can expect a big game from both of us, like a lot of hustle and a lot of hard work, guys playing hard and touch-guy stuff. Guys pushing each other and fouling and rebounding, just gritty, grimy stuff that coach Sendek likes. Typical sewer-rat ball."

Halftime: USC 33, UCLA 28

The Trojans are playing like an NCAA Tournament team and the question is whether they can withstand continuous UCLA runs throughout the second half. The Bruins closed the half on a 19-13 run to cut the deficit to five with some high-intensity basketball.

The atmosphere in the Staples Center is electric, mostly UCLA fans, who are cheering vigorously after every basket. This is what the rivalry should be.

By the way, I was not convinced that DeMar DeRozan (left, thanks to the Associated Press) was a one-and-out guy but he has pleaded his case this weekend. He thrilled the crowd (and media) with a high-flying dunk on UCLA's Nikola Dragovic midway through the first half. DeRozan is a superior athlete and a tough matchup for shooting guards because of his size and mid-range game.


Dwight Lewis -- 12 points

Taj Gibson -- 9 points
Josh Shipp -- 12 points
Nikola Dragovic -- 10 points

Final: Arizona State 75, Washington 65

The Sun Devils pull away with a 17-5 game-ending run and advance to the Pac-10 Championship. James Harden finished with 24 points and Jeff Pendergraph added 18. Back with notes and quotes.

Arizona State 73, Washington 62, 54.1 seconds left

The Huskies made a valiant rally to take a 60-58 lead on an Isaiah Thomas layup with six minutes left but allowed a 15-2 run as they appeared to tire from the rally. Things got chippy again in the final minute when Thomas was called for an intentional foul on Derek Glasser.

Washington will now go home and prepare for the tournament and getting some rest may be key to a long tourney run.,

James Harden leads Arizona State with 24 points while Thomas has 17.

Matters getting heated at Staples Center

OK, so with 13:43 left and Washington trying to make a run, things get testy as Arizona State's James Harden gets into an altercation with Washington's Venoy Overton.

Here's what went down: Harden scored a bucket over UW's Jon Brockman and Brockman was called for a block. As Harden's teammates went to congratulate him, he walked from the group and gave a shove to Overton, who fell backward. Overton, a tough player from Seattle's Franklin High School, grabbed Harden's jersey and Harden fell forward over Overton. Arizona State's Derek Glasser when walked over Overton and stood over him while he was lying on the ground.

Quincy Pondexter got into the face of Harden and coach Lorenzo Romar had to run out on the court to separate the parties. After a few minutes of delay, Harden, Glasser and Overton were assessed technicals.

After all the free throws, Arizona State leads 48-36 with 13:43 left.

Arizona State 44, Washington 31 -- 15:17 left

The Huskies are playing better but haven't cut much into the lead and the question is whether Washington should exhaust themselves trying to win this game or go home and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.

As of now, ESPN's tournament bracket guru Joe Lunardi has Washington as a third seed in Portland playing Robert Morris. That is a great seed, location and opponent. A hard-fought loss to Arizona State won't affect Washington's seed but will beating ASU and UCLA tomorrow in a potential final move UW to a No. 2 seed? Doubtfully.

The Huskies are beginning to press to speed the game up and create transition baskets. It should be an exciting finish.

Halftime: Arizona State 38, Washington 21

At 20-13 Arizona State, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar tore into his team for launching 3-pointers and taking ill-advised shots. Well... the Sun Devils went on a 18-8 run after that chat, so that tells you what you need to know about the first half. The Huskies shot 23 percent in the first 20 minutes and missed four free throws.

Arizona State actually trailed 11-5 in the first half but Washington was putrid offensively for the final 12-plus minutes. Any team playing Arizona State knows the worst way to attack the Sun Devils is allowing James Harden to get going early, and his has 15 first-half points and a little scrape with Washington's Justin Dentmon following a mid-court foul in the first half.

Ty Abbott added 12 points, which is a shock because Abbott has struggled with his shooting stroke all season. He shot 34 percent before the Pac-10 Tournament and 23 percent from the 3-point line. In the first half he was 5-for-8 from the field and canned two 3-pointers.

His lone miscue was a foul on Dentmon with 1.5 seconds left in the half that resulted in a four-point play.