- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) Luke Walton stepped out of his father's long shadow and took his Arizona teammates with him.
Walton had 23 points and eight assists playing all 40 minutes and the No. 15 Wildcats beat No. 22 Southern California 81-71 last night to win the Pacific-10 tournament.
The tournament didn't exist back in the early 1970s, when Walton's father, Bill, helped UCLA win two NCAA championships.
The younger Walton, the tournament MVP, was cheered on by his father, who leaped to his feet several times during the second half. They are one of only three father-son duos to play in a Final Four.
Luke Walton's performance completed a renaissance that began at the start of the season, when the Wildcats were in need of a dominant presence after losing four starters. The junior was a reserve last season, averaging 5 points.
Walton got better as the season wore on, and so did the Wildcats, culminating in Arizona's fourth consecutive Pac-10 tournament title.
"He's a tremendous competitor and also has an unbelievable feel for the game," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "What Luke does you don't teach. His reactions are in his genes."
What the Wildcats did in the second half was break USC's fullcourt press and find Walton in the middle.
"Luke is like our eyes on the court. We just move around, and Luke will find us," said freshman Channing Frye, who had seven defensive rebounds.
"Any time you can have a player like Luke, who's multidimensional can score, pass, dribble, shoot it's just impossible to guard him. It's just amazing to watch him."
The Wildcats also got a big performance from freshman Salim Stoudamire, who scored a career-high 29 points. Rick Anderson added 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Wildcats (22-9) earned the Pac-10's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, where they will be making their 18th consecutive appearance.
Arizona has been no lower than a No. 5 seed in the last 12 years, which includes the 1997 national title and a runner-up finish to eventual champion Duke last year.
"Given our strength of schedule, I would anticipate our being a second seed, if not a third, but certainly no lower," Olson said.
USC (22-9) owns a much more modest NCAA resume, having played in 11 tournaments and advancing past the second round only last year, when it lost to eventual champion Duke in the regional final.
"We're not done yet," said USC's Sam Clancy, the league's player of the year.
Arizona's fourth consecutive Pac-10 tournament title came after a 12-year gap. The Wildcats won three of the first four tournaments, then the event was dropped after 1990. They extended their tournament winning streak to 12 games.
David Bluthenthal led USC with 16 points and eight rebounds. Desmon Farmer added 15 points and Brandon Granville 13 points.
The Trojans came out of halftime looking nothing like the team that led by 13 and spent the first 20 minutes in Arizona's face on defense.
"We backed off a little too much," Granville said.
Clancy, Bluthenthal and Errick Craven each picked up their third fouls in the first five minutes of the half.
"We broke their press. Every time they got into it, we broke it, so they had to come out of it eventually," said Stoudamire, the cousin of former Arizona star Damon Stoudamire.
The Wildcats regained the lead with a 19-4 run.

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