NCAA BK

BURLISON notes: USC's resurgence is no stretch

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Frank Burlison

 
   
 

LOS ANGELES

The most high profile headband in the Pacific-10 Conference went home to Westwood to await the start of the NCAA tournament, along with Jason Kapono and his UCLA teammates, after they were sent packing on the first day of the Pac-10 tourney late Thursday night in the Staples Center. But a couple of more of them look like they're going to have a third day in the conference and national television spotlight Saturday afternoon. Sophomores Jerry Dupree and Desmon Farmer have done more than model spiffy head gear for USC the past couple of days at the arena just up Figueroa a few miles from the Trojans' campus. They're also doing their best to help jump start Henry Bibby's team into next week's NCAA tourney. It took about 30 minutes longer than it did the day before, when they cleaned and pressed Stanford by 25 points, but the Trojans did in fact overwhelm the conference's regular season champion Friday night. The Oregon team that edged USC twice in conference play succumbed, eventually, to the same full-court defensive pressure and spread-you-out-and-attack-you offense that left the Stanford players glassy-eyed and their coach grasping for explanations. The Trojans' eventual 89-78 victory over the Ducks — who led by 13 points in the first half — included a healthy dose of the free-flowing, high-flying antics of Dupree and Farmer, who combined for 29 points and 10 rebounds about 28 hours after they'd dropped 29 (but just five rebounds) on the Cardinal. If Bibby was concerned about what kind of productivity he could depend on from players other than the usual suspects of seniors Sam Clancy, Brandon Granville and David Bluthenthal and freshman Errick Craven, he apparently can search for other things to worry about. And that, as anyone who knows him, isn't ever a problem for the USC coach (smile, Henry!). "I think Jerry and Desmon have been our MVPs here," Granville said, the evening before his team would have to take the Staples floor again, this time to face Arizona for the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney that goes to this three-day hoop-extravaganza's winner. "They bring a lot of energy and athleticism to our game; they get us really excited and playing hard. They play defense, get some blocked shots and steals. They do a little bit of everything." Granville was being modest in regards to who should be the MVP of the Trojans — after the first two days, that is. The 5-foot-9 point guard scored 37 points and had 20 assists Thursday and Friday, and he hooks up his Arizona's counterpart (5-10ish junior Jason Gardner) for the seventh time in two-plus seasons Saturday afternoon. But Dupree and Farmer — who, at various times this season, have been at the end of Bibby's bench — were the X-factors for the Trojans Friday. A couple of bits of "coaching-speak" describes them aptly: They've "got live legs" and they "play with a lot of energy." "We noticed that they gave them some extra energy in yesterday's game (against Stanford)," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. "For whatever reason they were not playing early on and now they are starting to produce and get some things done for them." Bibby is that way, though — he doesn't mind keeping a player planted on the bench, no matter how gifted he might be, if he doesn't approach practices and games with the same level of physical and mental effort he demands of everyone who plays for him. It's taken Dupree, a junior college transfer, a while to catch on to Bibby's standard operating procedure. "Basically, it was a reality check for me," he said, wincing ever-so-slightly. "But I've learned you have to work hard, every day, on and off the court." And don't forget to bring the headband, Jerry ...

No lack of respect in Arizona

Arizona's 90-78 nightcap victory over Cal earned the Wildcats a spot in the title game against a USC team that Lute Olson had already reached a solid conclusion on after his team visited the L.A. Sports Arena. Less than a week after that game — an 89-84 USC win — Olson was still singing the Trojans' praises. "That's the best team in the conference," he said, while attending a high school playoff game in Southern California. "The only reason we stayed close to them was because we were shooting so phenomenally (16 of 29 on 3-pointers)." I can't wait to hear what his USC review sounds like Saturday night ...

Oregon gets a breather

Ernie Kent's team will get an extra day to rest in Eugene now in preparation for its first NCAA tournament game next Thursday or Friday. And that's not exactly a bad thing, Kent was quick to point out. "We're a high-octane team that played really hard for two days here," he said. "The extra day's rest will be good for us." Kent had hoped that his team might bag a No. 2 seed or — with a healthy dose of wishful thinking clicking — a No. 1 seed by winning the Pac-10 tourney. He wasn't about to pretend to be able to read the minds of the 10 members of the NCAA selection committee that is holed up in an Indianapolis hotel room slapping that 65-tean bracket together before its unveiled Sunday night. "I don't have any idea what they're thinking in that room," he said. "I don't want to politic." Best guesses at what seed the Ducks will get? A three, with a spot in the Sacramento first- and second-round site next week.

Celebrity watch

Well, the event didn't pack the star attraction of a Lakers' game in the building. But actor Kevin Costner (and when was the last time he was in anything passing for a good movie?) sat courtside for both semifinal games Friday night and posed for pictures with the Oregon cheerleaders. Who says it's all about basketball? Frank Burlison can be reached at his e-mail address, fburlison@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Oregon, Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Southern California

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