March 15, 2009 in Sports

Trojans win first Pac-10 tournament

Beth Harris Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

USC freshman DeMar DeRozan was MVP of the Pac-10 tourney.
(Full-size photo)

LOS ANGELES – Southern California’s defensive style is man-to-man. The Trojans don’t pressure full-court, and yet that’s what earned them the school’s first Pac-10 men’s basketball tournament championship.

Daniel Hackett hit the tying and go-ahead free throws with 42 seconds remaining and USC held on for a 66-63 victory over No. 23 Arizona State on Saturday.

Freshman DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points, Hackett added 19 and Dwight Lewis 13 for the sixth-seeded Trojans (21-12), who overcame a 15-point halftime deficit and became the lowest seed to win the tourney.

James Harden, the Pac-10 player of the year, missed a free throw, a layup and a 3-pointer in the final 50 seconds for the fourth-seeded Sun Devils (24-9). They were led by Jeff Pendergraph with 20 points and Derek Glasser with 16 in the school’s first appearance in the title game.

A stunned Pendergraph couldn’t describe his emotions afterward, saying, “It’s a lot of stuff and I don’t want to say something crazy.”

The Trojans had been 0-3 in league tourney finals, losing to Oregon in 2003 and 2007 and to Arizona in 2002. The previous lowest-seeded team to win was Oregon six years ago. USC split with the Sun Devils during the regular season.

“We focused on our practice and preparation and we took it one game at a time,” Hackett said. “It got us to a championship.”

DeRozan was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, and USC fans responded by chanting “One More Year!” to the rookie who may be headed to the NBA draft.

“He played like a man, not a freshman,” Hackett said. “He came in with a goal in mind, to make something at this school.”

Lewis hit a 3-pointer in front of USC’s bench that left the Trojans trailing 63-62 with 1:01 remaining. Harden was called for an offensive foul at ASU’s end, then Glasser fouled Hackett to put him at the line with 42 seconds left. Hackett made both to give USC a 64-63 lead, its first since the game’s opening minutes.

Harden missed a layup with 19 seconds to go. Taj Gibson got the block and the defensive rebound and was fouled by Glasser. Gibson made one of two free throws for a 65-63 advantage.

“Taj just blocked my shot,” Harden said. “They play a unique style of defense. They play man and they guard their man.”

Harden missed a 3-pointer over Gibson with 4 seconds to play. Harden finished with 10 points, well under his 21.1 average.

Gibson, the league’s defensive player of the year, twice got the better of Harden when the two faced off in the final 19 seconds. First, Gibson blocked Harden’s layup attempt, then he altered Harden’s shot on the 3-point attempt.

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