Following its second loss of the season Thursday night, Arizona looks to rebound Saturday evening (5pm Arizona time, Pac12 Network) against a revitalized USC team. USC (13-3) is coming off a home win against ASU. Arizona is 1-1 in the Pac 12 currently while USC sits at 2-1.
In his third season at the helm of USC basketball, Andy Enfield (formerly of Florida Gulf Coast, aka “Dunk City”) has the Trojans playing their best basketball of his young tenure there. USC beat a ranked Wichita State team and played tough in a loss to Xavier earlier this season. While no one is ready to start classifying USC as a “basketball school”, the team has showed renewed energy this year and is proving to be a tough beat. It remains to be seen if top 10 ranked Arizona coming to town can have an affect on USC fans apathy towards Pac 12 basketball (USC was at about 34% capacity with attendance last season).
Much in the mold of Arizona’s previous two Pac 12 opponents, USC is a team that relies heavily on its starting five to provide its scoring punch. At the same time, it has a starting five where any combination of players can go off on any given night. Starting guards Katin Reinhardt, Jordan McLaughlin, and Julian Jacobs have been the Trojans most consistent players, all averaging over 13 points and 3 rebounds per game. Look for the three of them to shoot plenty of threes in USC’s up-tempo offense.
The Trojans frontcourt of freshman Bennie Boatwright and junior Nikola Jovanovic is talented, combining for about 25 points and 13 rebounds per game. Boatwright has continued to mature throughout the season and helped USC hold off a late run against ASU Thursday night in route to a 10 point victory.
Arizona did not play well Thursday night, but showed a lot of heart in rallying late to almost steal a victory at Pauley Pavilion (a rare sellout as Bruins fans were able to rally against the traffic to make it for the matchup against a top ranked team). In the waning moments, Kadeem Allen led the charge for the Wildcats with multiple assists and drives to the basket.
Even though they lost, Arizona was able to seemingly grasp some momentum from the late comeback, rather than suffering a double-digit defeat. As was noted before the ASU game, this is Arizona’s toughest road trip of the season. Completing it 2-1 would be a very good result for the Cats.
Arizona will look for a much-improved defensive effort against USC. If they are able to efficiently defend the three-point line, get Gabe York and Allonzo Trier involved offensively form the start, and not give up an early, momentum shifting lead, Arizona will be in great shape to get out of LA with a split weekend. Winning on the road is tough in the Pac 12, and has been for the past several years. Sean Miller and the Wildcats will look to prove Saturday night that they are the exception to that rule.