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Men's basketball Notes: Rebounding, not refs, key to USC loss

By Connor Doyle
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Feb. 19, 2002

During his weekly press conference, UA men's head basketball coach Lute Olson made one point over and over again: the Wildcats need to improve on the boards, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

"We have to rebound a whole lot better against the good teams. We need to have Ricky and Luke pursuing the ball as hard as they did in the second half of the (Southern California) game. The board effort has to be much better by us because it's not a case where we have a guy in the middle who's going to go up and get double figures or close to it each game," Olson said.

He also laid some of the responsibility on the guards to pick up the slack on the glass, saying increased rebounding from the backcourt would lead to more fast-break opportunities.

Olson pointed to Saturday's loss as proof of UA's need to hit the glass - USC held a rebounding margin of eight and had 19 more offensive opportunities, a staggering number that may have made the difference.

"Often, it's not their first shots that are hurting us, it's their second one," Olson said.

When asked about the traveling call made against Jason Gardner with three seconds left in the USC game, Olson went with the Pac-10 officials he has criticized at times over the course of the season.

"The replay they showed on TV didn't show the whole thing," Olson said. "The call was the correct call. He slid slightly on the floor as he got ready to release it."

Gardner said he had not seen the tape yet, but wasn't as sure as his coach that the right call was made.

"I don't know. I don't think I (traveled), but the call was made so you can't do anything about it," he said.

Olson is sticking to his earlier position that the regular-season battle for the top spot in the conference will go down to the wire.

"I said earlier that I think the (regular-season) league champions or co-champions will be in that position as a result of their last game a week from this Saturday," he said. "When you take a look at the schedules, we're fortunate to have three games in a row at home."

Olson also said he thinks one team is the class of the Pac right now.

"I think the team that's probably played the best has been USC. When you look at their losses, teams have had 3-pointers at the buzzer that took games when they were ahead," he said.

Defense has been a point of concern for the Wildcats for most of the season, as evidenced by their league-high 80.2 points per game allowed over the course of the season. However, Olson said the team has made strides as the schedule has progressed.

"I think we're getting better. The last thing to come for freshmen is on the defensive end. I think we've gotten better with responding to drivers, and back a month ago, we were always a step slow with responding to situations - and now I think we're responding much better right now."

However, the Wildcats have actually given up more points per game in conference play (81.6 points), while their scoring average has only risen by a half-point (from 83.0 to 83.5) during Pac-10 play. This might not be a good sign heading into post-season play.


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