Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.30.12 EditionPosted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2012
- We’re now officially halfway through the conference season (man, does time ever fly) and after nine games we’ve got a tie at the top of the conference, with both California and Washington sitting at 7-2. For much of the season, the Huskies have been considered a significant disappointment, underachieving despite boasting one of the most talented rosters in the Pac-12. But this weekend, they scored a huge road win at Arizona in front of a prime-time ESPN audience, capping a sweep of the Arizona schools and earning what is their most impressive road victory of the season. But, as is typical of the Huskies, it seems, it didn’t come easy. At the final media timeout, the U-Dub held a 62-52 lead on the Wildcats and appeared to be coasting. But, turnovers, missed free throws, blown layups and porous defense (not to mention a healthy helping of Solomon Hill) found the game tied up with nine seconds left after a Hill three. But, following the three, freshman guard Josiah Turner was called for a blocking foul in the backcourt, some 60 feet from the basket, with just five seconds left, sending C.J. Wilcox, a 90% free throw shooter to the line. He made both of them, but Turner had redemption on his mind, driving the length of the court in the final seconds, getting all the way to the cup, only to have his shot blocked by Washington freshman Tony Wroten at the buzzer. The last time these two teams played in Tucson, it was Zona’s Derrick Williams rejecting Darnell Gant in the closing moments to seal the win for UA. The loss sends Arizona two back of the leaders in the conference, and cements them in a situation where they will need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to earn their 27th NCAA Tournament invitation in the last 28 years. Furthermore, they’ll have to do so without junior forward Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot in the game and is out the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the Huskies are tied for first place, and if nothing else, at least are in the conversation for an at-large tournament bid, even if their overall resume is lacking.
- California earned its spot at the top of the midway standings by knocking off rival Stanford Sunday night, using a 20-9 run in the middle of the second half to put the Cardinal away. But senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, who had a career-high 12 rebounds to go with 11 points on the night, said the game with Stanford wasn’t necessarily a rivalry game, claiming that the Golden Bears just want to win games regardless of who they’re playing. Nevertheless, the win not only keeps Cal in first place, but it knocks the Cardinal down a peg; they’re sitting at 5-4 in the conference, two games back of the leaders.
- Oregon now sits a game back of Cal and Washington, after blowing a nine-point second half lead and seeing their rival Oregon State run away from them with a blistering offensive performance in the second stanza. The Beavers scored 53 points, shot a 66.1% eFG and hit five of their seven three-point attempts after the half, led by junior guard Jared Cunningham who had 24 of his 27 points after the break. The win brings OSU back within a game of .500 in conference play and marks the team’s first road win in conference play. They’ll get a chance to bolster their road chops next week with a trip to the Rockies for games with Colorado and Utah.
- Speaking of Colorado, they’re tied with Oregon a game back of the conference leaders, but they’re coming off a shellacking by UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday in which the Buffs’ struggles on the road were highlighted. They’ve won just one conference road game in the first half of the schedule, and that was against a struggling USC team, so they’ll have to find a way to earn some road wins the rest of the way if they want to remain among the conference leaders, a task easier said than done with trips to the Oregon and Arizona schools still remaining. As for the Bruins, they’re in a pack along with Arizona and Stanford of talented teams sitting a couple games back of the conference leaders. However, much like those other two teams, they’re in win-the-Pac-12-tourney-or-else mode.
- Lastly, back to those Trojans for a second, as they got the job done this weekend for the first time in conference play, knocking off Utah on Saturday. Maurice Jones and Garrett Jackson each scored 16 points (the total a career-high for Jackson), freshman Byron Wesley handed out seven assists and junior Greg Allen hit three threes as Kevin O’Neill’s club broke a nine-game losing streak. But, the news was not all good for the Trojans, as sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon tore the MCL in his left knee during the team’s loss to Colorado on Thursday night and will miss the remainder of the season. Dedmon’s injury means that the Trojans have now lost five different players to season-ending injuries.