Duel in the desert highlights this week in the Pac-12
A look at things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 17 Arizona at No. 25 Arizona State, Thursday. The Sun Devils (19-6, 7-6) have turned a once-lopsided rivalry into more of a fair fight this season after opening the season with 12 straight wins. The Wildcats (20-6, 10-3) still ended up winning the first meeting 84-78 to end the best start in Arizona State history. Arizona used its size advantage against the smaller Sun Devils and Pac-12 teams followed suit. Arizona State seems to have found an answer and completed the first conference weekend sweep in three seasons under Bobby Hurley last week. Wells Fargo Arena, also known as The Bank, has been rowdy all season and should be even more so for this rivalry game.
LOOKING AHEAD: UCLA and Southern California are running out of time to chase down Arizona in the Pac-12 race. Both teams are two games behind the Wildcats at 8-5 and have three weeks left before the Pac-12 Tournament. The Bruins and Trojans play the Oregon schools this week, swing through Colorado and Utah next week, and then close the regular season against each other at Galen Center on March 3.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: USC guard Jordan McLaughlin has 651 career assists, one shy of eighth all-time in Pac-12 history. ... The conference has the closest race in the nation, with 10 teams within 4 1/2 games of the lead. ... Arizona’s Allonzo Trier (19.6 points per game) and Deandre Ayton (19.5) are the Pac-12′s top two scorers, putting them on pace to become the first teammates since the formation of the Pac-8 in 1968-69 to finish 1-2 in league scoring.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Tres Tinkle, Oregon State. The coach’s son had quite a week, earning Pac-12 player of the week honors after averaging 24.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists in a pair of wins. He made 17 of 32 shots, including 5 of 10 from the 3-point arc.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: The Pac-12 women are going down to the wire. With two weeks left in the season, No. 7 UCLA, No. 9 Oregon and No. 14 Stanford are tied atop the league at 12-2. UCLA plays at Oregon on Monday in what could be a huge game toward determining the regular-season champion. The Cardinal have consecutive games against rival California on Thursday and Saturday.
Compiled by AP Basketball Writer John Marshall in Phoenix.