Arizona rebounds to easily take down USC 74-50
The No. 6 Arizona men‘s basketball team flipped the script from two nights earlier to blow out Southern California 74-50 Saturday night at the McKale Center.
On the heels of its second loss of the season, Arizona (17-2, 5-2 Pac-12) responded with aggressive defense from the opening tip and never looked back. The Wildcats jumped out to a 29-7 lead, thanks to efficient offense and abysmal shooting by the Trojans, the polar opposite of the UCLA game.
Head coach Sean Miller was very proud of his players for their ability to rebound from the 84-73 loss to the Bruins on national television. He said it’s never easy to leave behind a disappointing game like that, especially in today’s environment where everyone is trying to pull the team apart.
Yet, Arizona did just that. USC (8-13, 3-5) never led in the game and the UA’s advantage was double figures for the final 33:57 of the game. One main reason for that was Arizona’s defensive effort.
“I think we knew after the UCLA game we wanted to come out and really attack them on defense, get a lot of stops,” freshman center Tarczewski said. “I think we did that tonight.”
The Trojans hit 13-of-54 from the field (28.1 percent) and couldn’t even find their stroke from the free throw line, going 9-for-16 in the game. USC was fortunate to just reach the 28 percent mark, as its 5-for-6 shooting in garbage minutes helped pad the dreadful shooting numbers.
The Wildcats also forced 16 turnovers and outrebounded the Trojans 45 to 41.
“Their defense was exceptional,” USC’s interim coach Bob Cantu said in the post-game press conference. “I mean they were very physical and very aggressive, we weren’t able to get what we did against other teams.”
Arizona also put the ball in the basket, especially early on, with sophomore Nick Johnson and senior Solomon Hill leading the way. Johnson had 14 points and Hill added 13 points and five rebounds. The two combined to shoot 11-for-17 from the field.
After a rough outing against UCLA, senior Mark Lyons turned it around, particularly with his point guard duties. Lyons had four rebounds and three assists, but most importantly just one turnover. Tarczewski also came back strong after disappearing against the Bruins, tying a career-high with 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
“Honestly I think we might have been overly anxious for the UCLA game,” said freshman Brandon Ashley, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. “(Just) knowing that was such a big game for us. They have some major players on their team and I think we were too excited.”
“We just wanted to get back to what we (do),” he added about the USC game tonight. “We didn’t want to try too hard.”
Arizona’s shooting was below its average, hitting 41 percent from the field. With as well as the defense played though, the mediocre shooting was no issue for the UA.
The blowout also gave some lesser-used players a chance for Pac-12 experience. All fourteen eligible players saw court action, most notably sophomore Angelo Chol and freshman Gabe York. York scored seven points on 2-for-5 shooting in his first Pac-12 appearance.
“You don’t want to just be in one possession, cut-throat type of games where every play is life or death toward winning,” Miller said. “Tonight we had the opportunity to try to work and get (Tarczewski) the ball some, to play some other guys more. And that was good for us, no question.
“Big picture-wise, I think we leave this game feeling good about ourselves.”
Eight minutes into the UCLA game, the Wildcats trailed 21-5. Saturday, it was instead Arizona with the huge run out of the gate. At the eight minute mark against USC, the Wildcats led 21-7 and continued to shut down the Trojans with a subsequent 8-0 run.
As big as the 29 points were in the opening run, the seven points allowed on defense was even bigger for Miller.
“(Defense) is always the focus, but once in a while when you lose — all the sudden it’s really the focus,” he said. “Not just for me or the staff, but everybody.”