The No. 17 Trojans entered Saturday’s competition against Arizona riding a seven-game win streak in which they ousted their opponents physically. But between a poor first-half performance and Arizona’s red-hot shooting from the 3-point line, the Trojans were on the receiving end of a tough loss.
Throughout the night, the Trojans did not match the Wildcats’ physicality. USC was out-rebounded 43-36 and could not come up with loose balls. USC has now lost all of its games this season when being out-rebounded, the other two being against Colorado and Connecticut.
“There’s a certain mentality you have to have in both halves against a team as talented and physical as Arizona,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “We played harder in the second half, but for us to only draw three team fouls in the first half, it just means we weren’t aggressive enough and they had a lot of offensive rebounds. We have to learn to come out and be more physical from the opening.”
Arizona finished with 15 offensive rebounds on the night, which contributed to 17 second-chance points.
After tying the score at 44 early in the second half, the Trojans could not sustain their momentum and never caught up to the Wildcats.
Every time USC seemed to be making a run, Arizona was able to flip the switch, often with a 3-pointer. Arizona shot 47% from the 3-point line compared to the Trojans’ 35%, a key difference in the game.”What really hurt us was a couple of the role players made some timely threes. [Freshman guard Kerr Kriisa], [freshman guard Dalen Terry] and [graduate guard Terrell Brown Jr.] had six threes between the three of them,” Enfield said. “And it’s hard to stop everybody, but they made shots when they had to and I thought that was a difference in the game.”
USC struggled offensively in the first half, scoring just 31 points. Standout freshman forward Evan Mobley could not get going in the first frame, scoring just four points. Mobley only shot the ball twice in the half, with his first points coming five minutes before halftime.
Mobley was able to start the second half with more energy and earned a couple of and-one opportunities for the Trojans. He ended the game with 23 points, going 7-of-12 from the field and 8-of-12 from the free-throw line.
“I knew I had to come out and be aggressive in order for us to win and I tried to do that in the second half,” Mobley said. “I feel like they slipped on [guarding me] for a little bit because Tahj started heating up and other players were hitting shots. So I opened the floor for me to get easier buckets.”
Outside of Mobley, redshirt senior guard Tahj Eaddy was the only main offensive contributor for the Trojans. Eaddy provided a solid 17 points, going 7-for-15 from the field.
Redshirt senior forward Chevez Goodwin was the Trojans’ next-highest scorer, tallying only eight points.
On the defensive end of the floor, USC could not stop Arizona from producing big numbers. Three Wildcats had over 15 points with junior guard James Akinjo’s 20 points and seven assists leading the way.
Redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Brown and freshman forward Azuolas Tubelis both posted double-doubles for Arizona. Brown put up 19 points and 13 rebounds while Tubelis added another 16 points and 15 rebounds.
The Trojans simply did not play their best game and Arizona rose to the occasion.
“We’ve been exceptionally tough defensively and and we’ve been very, very mentally tough late in games,” Enfield said. “We’ve won a lot of games the last four or five, six minutes where the game was close and we were able to get stops and also make timely shots and guys should step up and make plays. This is a tough loss. But certainly we didn’t play our best basketball tonight.”
The Trojans have a quick turnaround as they welcome Oregon to Galen Center on Monday. USC was originally scheduled to play Stanford, but the Pac-12 shuffled the Trojans’ schedule after their most recent matchup against the Ducks was canceled due to coronavirus issues within Oregon’s program. The game will have heavy implications on the conference championship, as USC and Oregon each have three conference losses, tied for the fewest in the Pac-12. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.