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USC basketball: Top-seeded Arizona leads fourth-seeded USC at halftime, 33-28

March 11, 2011 |  7:15 pm

Fourth-seeded USC is playing top-seeded Arizona in a Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament semifinal at Staples Center without its head coach, Kevin O'Neill, who was suspended Friday for the remainder of the tournament.

But even without him, and with USC associate head coach Bob Cantu coaching his first game since 1998, the Trojans are hanging tough against the No. 16 Wildcats, who lead at halftime, 33-28. 

The winner advances to Saturday's final against either the winner of Friday's other semifinal game between seventh-seeded Oregon and third-seeded Washington.

The game has been back and forth for most of the first half, with each team making minor runs here and there.

Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams, the Pacific 10 Conference player of the year, scored the final bucket of the half on an emphatic two-handed slam just before the buzzer sounded. He has seven points, one short of his total when USC last played Arizona in February. 

USC is surprisingly being led in scoring by senior guard Marcus Simmons, the Pac-10 defensive player of the year, who has 11 points. Simmons' season high is 12 points against New Mexico State on Nov. 21.

Arizona is shooting 12 for 29 (41.4%) from the field and USC is shooting 12 for 22 (54.5%). 

O'Neill's suspension stems from an altercation he and his wife, Roberta, were involved in Thursday night in a hotel lobby with an Arizona booster.  

-- Baxter Holmes