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Arizona rewind: Walton led Wildcats to 2002 Pac-10 tournament title

Luke Walton fires a pass to Isaiah Fox in the 2002 Pac-10 tournament title game.
Photo by Francisco Medina, Tucson Citizen

The Arizona Wildcats have won four Pac-10 tournament championships, but none since 2002.

Rewinding the clock nine years …

The Wildcats beat USC for that 2002 conference tournament title, with junior forward Luke Walton earning Most Outstanding Player honors.

Walton had 23 points and eight assists in the title game, playing all 40 minutes in the 81-71 victory over USC.

“It just shows what type of player he is,” Arizona point guard Jason Gardner was quoted as saying by the Tucson Citizen’s Steve Rivera. “He’s finding players with the ball and leading the team. He did a great job for us.”

Arizona struggled against USC’s full-court press in the first half, committing 10 turnovers, but then coach Lute Olson moved Walton to the middle of the floor, where he could direct traffic and find open teammates.

“Luke is like our eyes on the court,” said freshman center Channing Frye. “We just move around, and Luke will find us.”

Gardner and shooting guard Salim Stoudamire, a freshman, were selected to the all-tournament team along with Walton.

Arizona reached the 2005 Pac-10 tournament title game but lost to Washington.

The Wildcats will play the Huskies on Saturday, looking for the first title since Walton led them to the trophy in 2002.

The Pac-10 tournament was held from 1987 to 1990 before being discontinued. The tourney resumed in 2002. Arizona won four in a row (1988, 1989, 1990, 2002) and has the most conference tournament championships in Pac-10 history.

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