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USC's Kevin O'Neill, Arizona's Derrick Williams are crying foul

Trojans coach says officials are protecting the Wildcats forward, who offers a much different view. The teams meet Thursday night at the Galen Center.

February 23, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • Arizona forward Derrick Williams scores inside against the Washington Huskies at the McKale Center.
Arizona forward Derrick Williams scores inside against the Washington… (Chris Morrison / US Presswire )

It's late in the season and a Los Angeles basketball coach is calling out an opposing team's star player, needling him through the media about the special treatment he supposedly gets from game officials.

Phil Jackson up to his antics?

No, this time it was USC Coach Kevin O'Neill, who rattled the cages of controversy by saying this week that Arizona forward Derrick Williams was "the most protected dude I've seen since Michael Jordan."

Williams, a former La Mirada High star, averages 19.7 points and 8.1 rebounds for No. 10 Arizona (23-4, 12-2 in Pacific 10 Conference play), which plays USC (15-12, 7-7) at the Galen Center on Thursday night.

The statistic that O'Neill would like officials to note is Williams' free-throw attempts. The candidate for national player of the year leads the nation with 9.2 per game.

"If the guy walks across the court, it's a foul," O'Neill said, referencing the star treatment Jordan allegedly was shown by NBA officials.

Nearly an hour after The Times posted O'Neill's comments on Twitter onTuesday night, Williams tweeted his rebuttal:

"I don't get Michael Jordan treatment. … Just stop fouling me and we will be good."

Williams scored 20 points — 18 in the second half — when Arizona defeated USC, 82-73, in Tucson last month.

Williams signed a letter of intent with USC in 2009 but was granted a release from his scholarship after Tim Floyd abruptly resigned as USC's coach amid a cloud of scandal.

In an interview in Tucson last month, Williams said he grew up a USC fan,which will always make facing USC a "little strange" for him.

"Especially when I was basically a month, three to four weeks, from going to that school and being enrolled in that school," he said.

He lost in his first return to the Galen Center last season. He said he'll never forget that.

"When the announcer says, 'Derrick Williams,' everybody starts to boo," he said. "That just means you're doing something good."

Bobblehead night

USC will be giving away 2,000 bobbleheads of O'Neill at Thursday night's game. All students will receive one and the remaining dolls will be raffled.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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