Nick Johnson’s defense good enough to earn Pac-12 all-tournament selectionby Javier Morales on Mar. 17, 2013, under Sports
LAS VEGAS — My vote was in the minority — it might have been the only one for Arizona sophomore guard Nick Johnson among the media — when determining the Pac-12 All-Tournament team Saturday night.
My media brethren left Johnson off the list.
My ballot: Johnson, ASU point guard Jahii Carson (the most impressive player in the four days here), Oregon’s Johnathan Loyd and Damyean Dotson, Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie and UCLA’s Jordan Adams.
The actual selections: Loyd (the Most Outstanding Player), Carson, Adams, Oregon’s Arsalan Kasemi and UCLA’s Larry Drew II.
My beef about Johnson being left off the list: He shut down Drew and held Dinwiddie to 4-of-12 shooting from the field in Arizona’s 79-69 in the quarterfinals. Drew was 0-of-5 from the field and had only four assists in 37 minutes against Johnson, yet he was selected to the all-tournament team.
“I was excited to guard two great point guards,” Johnson told me after Arizona lost to UCLA in the semifinals Friday. “That’s two great point guards in two days. I looked forward going against Drew because he does such a great job getting his teammates the ball.”
Drew had only one assist by halftime against Johnson and never got on track. His teammate Adams carried the Bruins on his back.
This confirms that defense does not earn your way on to an all-tournament team; scoring and reputation does the trick.
My vote for the Most Outstanding Player was Dotson, who averaged 15 points in Oregon’s three games here and showed composure despite being a freshman. Loyd, a local boy who played at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, was selected the Most Outstanding Player after scoring a season-high 19 points in the championship victory over UCLA. In the two previous games against Washington and Utah combined, however, Loyd had only 15 points.
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UCLA lost all three games decidedly after beating Arizona this season. The Bruins lost at ASU 78-60, at last-place Washington State 73-61 and against Oregon here Saturday 78-69 in this scenario.
That’s an average margin of 13 points in UCLA’s losses after defeating the Wildcats this season.
The Bruins have an excuse for the loss against the Ducks. They were without Adams, who broke his right foot in the last play of UCLA’s win over Arizona on Saturday. He is out for the remainder of the season.
“When you lose one of your best players, it’s always something you’ve got to try to overcome,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “And we’ll get better at that. We didn’t have any time to prepare.”
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Former Arizona point guard Jason Gardner was honored as part of the Pac-12 Hall of Honor in the second half of the UCLA-Oregon championship game. Gardner is an assistant coach at Loyola of Chicago. Two other former UA point guards — Josh Pastner and Damon Stoudamire — coached Memphis to its third consecutive Conference USA tournament title Saturday.
I texted Pastner yesterday after the Tigers’ double-overtime victory over Southern Miss for the championship. True to his form, Pastner texted back, although he must have received countless messages congratulating him on the victory.
“Great win today against a very good team,” Pastner texted me. “Thanks for the text. We appreciate and value every win. Never take them for granted.”
Pastner, the 2013 Conference USA Coach of the Year, is 105-33 in four years as head coach at Memphis after replacing John Calipari.
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Arizona coach Sean Miller is as intense as they come, especially after viewing his comments about his technical foul following Friday’s loss to UCLA. Put me among those who welcomed the manner in which Miller commented about the technical.
He apologized for the technical and took responsibility for giving UCLA two points, the difference in a 66-64 win for UCLA. But, in my opinion, it was a positive development for Miller to explain that Adams “touched the ball … He touched the ball … He touched the ball!” when UA guard Mark Lyons was whistled for a double-dribble against the Bruins late in the game.
Instead of taking the day off after traveling from Las Vegas to Tucson on a charter flight following the loss to UCLA, Miller and his staff put the Wildcats through workouts at Richard Jefferson Gymnasium on Saturday.
The Wildcats can rest after their upcoming NCAA tournament experience. No such thing as a break on spring break for Arizona and that’s the way it should be this time of year.
Read more about the Wildcats at WILDABOUTAZCATS.net. Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner