Arizona spent a lost weekend in Los Angeles two weeks ago, getting swept instead of clinching the Pacific-10 Conference regular-season title the first chance it had.
The Wildcats’ latest visit is going much better.
Derrick Williams scored 20 points, and No. 16 Arizona held off Southern California, 67-62, Friday night to earn a spot in the Pac-10 tournament title game for the first time since 2005.
USC (19-14) played without coach Kevin O’Neill, whose suspension for the rest of the tournament was announced by USC two hours before tipoff. He and his wife got into a verbal altercation with an Arizona booster on Thursday night at the team hotel.
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Bob Cantu, the Trojans’ associate head coach in his 10th year with the program, took over for O’Neill.
Arizona fans tweaked O’Neill’s absence, with one sign reading, “O’Neill leave our fans alone,” and another reading, “Hotel bar” with an arrow pointing in one direction.
Top-seeded Arizona (27-6) has won 12 of 14 games and will play either No. 3 seed Washington or seventh-seeded Oregon at 3 p.m. in today’s championship game.
Jesse Perry added 11 points for Arizona, which had its 25-year NCAA tournament streak end last year, when the Wildcats stayed home. But as the Pac-10’s highest-ranked team this season, they’re headed back regardless of how they fare today.
“I thought this was our best win of the season,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “If there was a total team win we had this season, tonight was the night.”
Marcus Simmons, the Pac-10’s defensive player of the year, led the Trojans with a career-high 20 points.
Nikola Vucevic scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and had 12 rebounds.
“If I could limit his catches, I’m going to limit his points, so that’s what I tried to do,” said Williams, who defended Vucevic most of the game. “He was frustrated and stuff like that, so I just tried to get in his head a little bit and just try to stop him from scoring. He still had a double-double.”
Cantu found out three hours before the game that he’d be in charge.
“I ran two plays that we hadn’t run before. I laughed and said, ‘K.O. is saying, ‘Why is he running that play right now?’ ” Cantu said. “I felt that if we ran something different, they wouldn’t expect it. So we threw a couple extra things in there, and a couple worked and a couple didn’t.”
Said Vucevic: “It was different,. When K.O. is there, he yells a lot, and we didn’t hear a lot of yelling. We still did a good job.”
No. 2 Stanford 100, Arizona 71: Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 32 points, her younger sister, Chiney Ogwumike, added 21m and the Cardinal took another step toward its fifth straight Pac-10 tournament title.
Top-seeded Stanford (28-2) faces second-seeded UCLA (27-3) at 11:30 a.m. today in the title game.
Chiney had 13 rebounds, and Nemkadi had 10 against the Wildcats to help the Cardinal (28-2) win its 22nd in a row overall and 56th consecutive league game. Stanford reached the 100-point mark for the third time this season.
Kayla Pedersen added 16 points, and Sarah Boothe 12 as the only other Cardinal players in double figures. The Ogwumike sisters helped Stanford dominate the boards, 41-29, and own a 64-18 edge in the paint.
Soana Lucet scored 17 points and Ify Ibekwe added 15 – making all nine of her free throws – for Arizona (21-11), which lost its 20th straight to the Cardinal. The Wildcats had their five-game winning streak end.
No. 7 UCLA 63, California 50: Atonye Nyingifa had 17 points and nine rebounds, Darxia Morris added 14 points, and the Bruins controlled almost every minute to advance to the tournament final.
Afure Jemerigbe scored 17 points for the rebuilding Golden Bears (17-15), who beat Washington and upset third-seeded Arizona State to reach the semifinals.