Lewis, Trojans are in good standing


Dwight Lewis took one giant step forward, and USC took a little one in a game where the biggest play happened out of bounds.

By the time the Trojans had finished scratching and clawing their way to a 65-64 victory over Arizona on Saturday at the Galen Center, they could claim full membership in the Pacific 10 conference race -- for now.

The Trojans (12-5, 3-2) were presented with a big opportunity, with UCLA and California losing, and snagged it when Daniel Hackett made one of two free throws with one second left.


That, though, was merely the end. The means came four minutes earlier when Lewis saw his opportunity with Arizona leading, 58-54.

Lewis carried the Trojans offensively through the last five minutes, scoring 12 of their last 15 points. He had also spent the day chasing Arizona’s Nic Wise while Wise spent his afternoon carving up USC’s defense.

So when Wise slid out of bounds with four minutes left, Lewis took a big step forward and stood over him. Wise seemed unclear how to handle the situation, then handled it badly, standing up and flipping Lewis over.

“I didn’t see anything,” USC center Taj Gibson said. “How’d it look?”

Bad from Arizona’s vantage point. Wise was called for an intentional foul. Arizona’s bench went berserk. Lewis made two free throws and then made a five-foot bank shot to tie the score.

One side seemed blinded by the light of good fortune.

“I didn’t see it,” USC Coach Tim Floyd said. “I know three trained referees looked at the [replay]. It wasn’t a rash judgment call. I assume they made the proper call. Didn’t know. Couldn’t tell you. Didn’t see it.”

The other side leaned more toward blind rage. Asked whether he argued for a double foul on the play, Arizona Coach Russ Pennell said, “I was arguing for everything I could think of to get our team the win.”


He added, “You go take a look at that play and write what you see.”

And Lewis?

“What play?” he said, then smiled and confessed.

“Nic fell down and I wanted to make sure I could keep him out of play,” Lewis said. “He was getting into gaps and making plays. I stood in front of him a little bit. I wouldn’t say I was straddling him.”

No, he just had one foot on each side of him, but Lewis said, “I talked with Nic after the game. We’re still cool.”

The play negated a foul on Hackett, who said, “I turned to see what the call was and Dwight was already on the floor. I was blessed.”

The Trojans could consider the entire day manna from college basketball heaven. UCLA clocked out the last eight-plus minutes of its game, losing in overtime to Arizona State. California lost to Stanford in Mike Montgomery’s return to Palo Alto as the Bears’ coach.

That erased two undefeated teams from the conference standings.

“Coach told us before the game, ‘The guys across town lost,’ and ‘It’s time for us to bridge the gap,’ ” Gibson said.

The Trojans labored on that project right to the finish.

USC had held teams to 38% from the field this season. Arizona (11-7, 2-4) shot 52%. Yet, after making six of 10 three-pointers in the first half for a 37-34 lead, the Wildcats made only one of six.


Arizona later seemed to have a firm hand on the game, leading, 56-50, with 6:31 left. Then Lewis, who made only two of his first 10 shots, scored 12 consecutive points.

The Trojans then appeared to be giving the game away, with Arizona State taking a 63-62 lead on Lewis’ turnover, then Hackett missing two free throws that would have given USC a lead with 32 seconds left. “I’m shooting 100 free throws tomorrow,” he said.

But Hackett made a 15-footer to tie the score with 15 seconds left, and after an Arizona turnover, he drew a foul 40 feet from the basket as he jumped and leaned to throw up a desperate shot.

“That foul was disappointing,” Pennell said. But putting it in perspective, he added, “The four-point play on the intentional foul was bigger in my mind.”



USC up next

Thursday at Washington, 8 p.m., Bank of America Arena, FS West: There is no rest for Trojans center Taj Gibson. He goes from facing Arizona’s Jordan Hill to battling Washington’s Jon Brockman.


-- Chris Foster