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LeNoir Helps USC Advance

Freshman's 17 points lead Trojans, who cloud Arizona's NCAA future with a 74-66 victory.

March 06, 2005|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

SAN JOSE — The Arizona Wildcats had 19 wins going into Saturday's Pacific 10 Conference tournament quarterfinal game against USC, and normally that would get them into the NCAA field of 64.

But the Wildcats have been so up-and-down -- they lost to California and Washington during the regular season -- it was a toss-up over who needed to win the game more to impress the selection committee.

The fourth-seeded Trojans, led by freshman guard Camille LeNoir's 17 points, defeated fifth-seeded Arizona, 74-66, before 4,011 at the HP Pavilion.

The Trojans advance to the semifinals, for the first time ever, against top-seeded Stanford.

"There was a lot at stake tonight because I thought the winner would get an at-large berth," USC Coach Mark Trakh said. "Regardless of what happens tomorrow this team deserves an at-large berth. They have some quality wins, we have a great RPI.... I really think we deserve to go."

The Trojans are 19-9, their most victories since the 1997 season. That was the last time they went to the NCAA tournament.

"USC is very big on tradition and they keep everything in the record books," said center Kim Gibson, who had four points and four rebounds and helped hold Arizona center Shawntinice Polk to eight points. "Getting to the NCAA tournament would mean everything. We could always come back and say, 'We were the team that got the Trojans back in.' "

Arizona (19-11), which lost its third in four games, was outrebounded, 52-41, and held to 36.9% shooting from the field. Coach Joan Bonvicini said an NCAA bid was no sure thing.

"If we had won today I think we would have been in the tournament," Bonvicini said. "I think now we're definitely a bubble team."

The Trojans, who shot 37.3%, went on an 11-4 run near the end of the first half to go into the locker room leading, 40-38.

USC pulled away with a 16-8 spurt in the final 7:16 of the second half.

"It was a game of runs and in both halves USC made its [best] runs late," Bonvicini said.

Dee-Dee Wheeler led Arizona with 15 points.

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