Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pac-10 Shines at Wooden Classic

#1 UCLA squeaked out a tough win against #6 Texas A&M in the opening game. Arron Afflalo showed why he's a candidate for Player of the Year. Despite not having his best game, he scored when it mattered most to seal the 63-60 win for the Bruins. Ben Howland's team, with Afflalo, Jordan Shipp, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison, has the talent and depth to return to the Final Four. Joseph Jones played well for the Aggies, but an ill-advised three-point attempt near the end of the game killed any chance for a comeback. Great win for UCLA in front of the architect of Bruin basketball himself, John Wooden.

While the first contest was a nail-biter, the afternoon game appeared all but over by halftime. George Washington took advantage of USC's youth and jumped out to a 29-16 lead. The paltry 16 points at half was an all-time low for the Wooden Classic. However, if the Trojans were stagnant to start the game they were scintillating the rest of the way. Led by Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and Lodrick Stewart, USC tripled its production in the second half, scoring 58 points and emerging with a 74-65 victory. Gibson, the Trojans' most consistent (and perhaps only) low-post presence, finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds. He provided the stout defense and consistent offense necessary for Tim Floyd's squad to chip away at what was once a 20-point deficit.

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