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Trojans Hope to Catch No. 3 Arizona Looking Ahead

February 18, 1988|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

USC Coach George Raveling said that it must be difficult for No. 3-ranked Arizona to remain motivated at this juncture of the college basketball season.

The Wildcats (23-2 overall, 12-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference), have virtually clinched the conference title. Moreover, Arizona is playing host to the season-ending Pac-10 tournament and doesn't figure to lose at home.

So Lute Olson's team is just marking time until the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament begins next month.

Raveling has his own motivational problems. The Trojans, who meet the Wildcats tonight at the Sports Arena, can only realistically look forward to next year.

USC (5-16, 3-9) is tied for ninth place with Washington. The Trojans could finish last in the Pac-10 for the third straight season.

"For all of us in the league, this is the toughest time of the year to coach," Raveling said. "There's a tendency to get away from fundamentals and get things over with as quickly as possible. As a coaching staff, we're committed to coaching the last seven games the same as we did the first seven.

"Most of our goals have evaporated, but we're still putting a premium on execution and doing things the right way."

While Raveling said that there hasn't been a game this season when all five of his starters played to their capabilities, Olson has four starters with scoring averages in double figures.

All the Wildcats have to worry about is fighting a case of the blahs at this time of the season.

Steve Kerr, Arizona's long-range shooting point guard, said as much.

"The mental preparation becomes a chore when you look back and realize that you've already beaten the team you're about to play by 20 some points," Kerr said.

In USC's case, it would be 44 points (92-48), the highest losing margin in the school's history, last month in Tucson.

Trojan Notes

Tonight's game begins at 7:30 and will televised on Prime Ticket cable and broadcast by KNX radio. . . . Arizona forward Sean Elliott, an All-American prospect, is averaging 18.4 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. Center Tom Tolbert is shooting 56.7% from the field. Forward Anthony Cook is shooting 62%.

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