Tag:Nikola Vucevic
Posted on: February 25, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: February 25, 2011 2:02 am

USC's Vucevic was better than the Pac-10's best

LOS ANGELES -- The subject was Southern California junior Nikola Vucevic.

The quote was one about respect and attention.

"He doesn't get enough," said Arizona coach Sean Miller. I quickly agreed. But now I'm gonna try to change that reality by pointing out that those who don't watch Pac-10 basketball are missing one of the west coast's best players -- a 6-foot-10 forward who is making Kevin O'Neill's rebuilding job a little simpler than it would've otherwise been.

"Thank god the guy in the back was left over [from the Tim Floyd era]," O'Neill said after Thursday's 65-57 win against the 10th-ranked Wildcats while Vucevic stood in the back of the interview room staring at a box score that showed he finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds in a performance that allowed crosstown rival UCLA to pull within a game of Arizona heading into Saturday's showdown between the Bruins and Wildcats at Pauley Pavilion.

The effort also had two rows of NBA scouts scribbling notes and nodding with approval.

"The game is easy for him," one scout told me.

But how many have realized it's been easy for him most of this season? Vucevic is now averaging 19.3 points and 10.9 rebounds in Pac-10 games while shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from 3-point range. He's scored at least 25 points four different times, and he scored more than four different ways against the Wildcats. He passed out of double-teams when they came early, punished his defender when they didn't come late. Meantime, the likely Pac-10 Player of the Year, Arizona's Derrick Williams, was limited to eight points on a 3-of-11 shooting effort that left little doubt about which future pro got the better of this matchup.

"When you play the best player, you want to go against him and do better than him," Vucevic said.

It's also what Vucevic did.
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