USC falls to Arizona, snapping 7-game win streak – Orange County Register


After a quiet first half, No. 17 USC knew it would need a herculean effort from center Evan Mobley to come back against Arizona on Saturday at the Galen Center.

The Trojans got it, with the 7-foot freshman scoring 19 of his 23 after halftime. But with little help from the rest of his teammates, it wasn’t enough as Arizona beat USC 71-62, ending the Trojans’ seven-game winning streak.

It was clear from the start that USC (18-4, 12-3 in Pac-12) was going to have its hands full against a feisty Arizona team.

The Wildcats beat USC up inside in the first half, scoring 22 paint points and out-rebounding USC 21-16. The Trojans switched between man and zone defenses and still struggled to slow Arizona (15-8, 9-8) and forward Azuolas Tubelis, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds before halftime.

USC was beat in rebounding 43-36 on Saturday, the first time the Trojans lost the rebounding margin since December.

“They were a little more physical in the first half against us,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “You have to play 40 minutes against a quality team like Arizona, especially the size that they have.”

Added guard Tahj Eaddy, who scored 17 for USC, “We didn’t match their intensity to come out. They had 50-50 balls, they had too many offensive rebounds that gave them confidence early and allowed the momentum to carry out throughout the game.”

And Arizona took Mobley out of his game early, stealing entry passes to the center and anticipating his passes back out to the perimeter when the Wildcat defense collapsed around him. Mobley was limited to four points and no rebounds in the first half.

The freshman center came out more focused in the second, completing a three-point play in the opening possession and scoring USC’s first eight points to tie the game at 39.

“I knew I had to come out and be aggressive in order for us to win. I tried to do that in the second half. It wasn’t enough to get us the win,” Mobley said. “I feel like in the beginning of the game their main focus was me. Every time I caught it, I would see help [defense] right away.”

The Wildcats answered each Trojan run. Arizona hit their first four 3-pointers of the second half to recapture the lead and never relinquish it again.

And Arizona got the type of balanced offense needed to pull off the upset. Guard James Akinjo led the Wildcats with 20 points, gashing the Trojans with drives to the rim. Forward Jordan Brown muscled his way to 19 and Tubelis finished with 16. Guards Kerr Krisja and Dalen Terry combined for five 3-pointers.

USC’s offense was not up for the challenge. While Mobley and guard Tahj Eaddy combined for 40 points, all other Trojans shot 12 for 35 from the floor. USC shot 35% from 3-point range and left nine points at the free-throw line.

Even when gifted opportunities, like when a technical foul on Arizona’s Christian Koloko led to the Trojans shooting six free throws in a single possession, USC couldn’t capitalize, missing three of those attempts.

“Some guys aren’t big scorers but what we would like is just shoot a decent percentage,” Enfield said. “Tonight, we just didn’t have it offensively.”

www.ocregister.com2021-02-21 01:20:42

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