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L.A. natives lead Wildcats past Trojans

LOS ANGELES – If USC was to best Arizona in Los Angeles
for the second time in a month, they would have to do so
without their head coach.

Athletic director Pat Haden suspended Southern California
head coach Kevin O’Neill Friday morning for the remainder
of the Pac-10 tournament after a verbal altercation with
an Arizona booster at a Los Angeles hotel Thursday night.

Sothern California (19-14, 10-8), with Bob Cantu at the
helm, fell to #15 Arizona (27-6, 14-4) 67-62 Friday night
at the Staples Center, sending the Wildcats to their first
Pac-10 final since 2005.

“I just want to say that Kevin O’Neill is our head coach,
a great person and a good friend. It is very unfortunate
we could not have him with us today,” Cantu said after the
loss.

Senior guard Marcus Simmons led the Trojans with 20 points
on 8-11 shooting while Wildcat killer Nikola Vucevic added
16 points and 12 rebounds. Simmons, in what could be his
final appearance in a Trojan jersey, averaged just over
five points in his two previous games against the Wildcats
this season.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller acknowledged that his squad
did something they could not do the last time these teams
met in L.A.

“They deserve to be in [the NCAA Tournament]. We weren’t
favored and there was a reason,” he said of the Trojans.
“We had a similar situation as last time and this time we
handled it better. USC’s a team that does not go down
easily.”

The Wildcats were lead by Derrick Williams’ 20 points and
seven boards, but the spark came from the bench Friday
night.

“That second group…took the lead from 4 or 5 to double
digits,” Miller said.
“That second group is the reason why we won a lot of games
this year,” Williams commented in his postgame interview.

Arizona utilized an eight-point burst, highlighted by
back-to-back treys from freshman guard Jordin Mayes to
take a 50-38 lead with 11:44 remaining in the contest.
USC would get as close as three when Jio Fontan cut the
lead in half to 63-60 with 0:47 remaining. Williams made
it a two-possession game by hitting both of his freethrows
with three seconds left to seal the victory.

“It felt good to be home and get the W in front of parents
and family,” Mayes, a native of Los Angeles, said. Mayes
led Westchester High to back-to-back California state
titles before coming to Arizona.

Both teams distributed and shot the ball well. Arizona
finished the game shooting just over 43 percent while USC
was an impressive 26-52 in a losing effort. The Wildcats
had 12 assists — 10 higher than when these teams met in
February, to USC’s 14.

Kyle Fogg did not start for the second night in a row as
he recovers from a quad injury sufferd against Oregon at
McKale on Mar. 5. Fogg came off the bench and scored three
points, adding four assists in 12 minutes. Coach Miller
acknowledged that Fogg is “getting better every day.”

The Wildcats will play for their first Pac-10 tournament
title since 2002 at the Staples Center Sunday afternoon
against either Oregon or Washington. Washington won the
2010 Pac-10 tournament defeating Califonia 79-75. Tip is
scheduled for 4:00 pm MT.