Saturday, March 6, 2010
Preview: USC at Arizona
By Pedro Moura
USC's final contest of the season tips off shortly, with the Trojans and Wildcats set for a 10:30 a.m. start in Tucson.
It's Senior Night for Arizona — or Senior Day, rather — which means point guard Nic Wise will be honored pregame. He's the only senior and one of only two upperclassmen for this Wildcat team, with the other being junior forward Jamelle Horne.
Of course, Arizona relies on freshman Derrick Williams as its No. 1 scoring option. Williams, who, along with guard Lamont Jones and forward Solomon Hill, was first committed to USC, has put up incredible numbers for a first-year. In fewer than 28 minutes a game, the 6-foot-8, 235-pounder averages nearly 16 points and seven rebounds — while shooting 60 percent from the field.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller called Williams his team's "best player at times" this week. Miller was also quick to complement his counterpart at USC, Kevin O'Neill.
"Kevin O’Neill has done an excellent job with their man-to-man defense," Miller said in the Pac-10 teleconference. "Their identity of their team is exceptional and he's great at it."
O'Neill's team has shut teams down many a time this season. But, of late, the Trojans' defensive success hasn't parlayed into offensive results. USC's last four opponents have scored an average of 53 points per game — but the Trojans have one-upped them, with an average of 47. Not surprisingly, USC has lost each of those games.
Now, there is some history with O'Neill and Arizona, as the 52-year-old coach spent the 2007-2008 season as the Wildcats' interim coach and coach-in-waiting, only to not be retained after his team lost in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
O'Neill said this week he had no bad blood with the Arizona program and no extra emotion.
“None whatsoever. To me it’s just another game against a quality team. I have great respect for Arizona and their tradition. I loved my time in Tucson, but it’s just another game.
"It’s unfortunately our last game of the year, but it’s just another outing.”
We'll have a postgame report later in the day.