It had been 12 years since USC men’s basketball last took home a win at the McKale Center. Arizona is traditionally the Pac-12′s powerhouse program, having won five conference titles over the past decade. Initially it seemed as if the Trojans were doomed to the same fate on Thursday evening, but they were able to pull away late and take down the Wildcats 87-73.
It was USC’s biggest win at Arizona since 1927.
“Huge road win for us over an exceptional basketball team. Arizona is so good at the McKale Center,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said postgame. “They are a very good team, a great coaching staff and a great program. So to come in here and get a victory, our kids deserve a lot of credit.”
A day after being named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List for the best college basketball player in the country, freshman forward Evan Mobley posted a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. His 12 points and one assist after halftime were part of a huge second half for the Trojans.
Enfield was impressed with the way Mobley dominated down the stretch in the second half.
“We tried to get him the ball in scoring position or playmaking position and I thought he did an outstanding job tonight,” he said.
Redshirt senior guard Isaiah White also contributed to USC’s cause, leading the team in scoring with 22 points on 70% shooting. It was a season-high for White, who started for the fourth time this season in place of the injured Ethan Anderson, who has been out with a back injury.
“[White] played a super all-around game and this [was] his best game as a Trojan,” Enfield said.
Junior guard Drew Peterson added seven points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
During the second half, the Trojan offense began to click. USC started the half shooting 10-of-12 from the field and made all three 3-pointers. They finished the half shooting an impressive 75% from the field. The Trojans also dominated inside, scoring 30 points in the paint after only putting up eight in the first half.
The Trojans’ 52-point second half was their highest output in a half this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans had a lot of trouble stopping Arizona freshman forward Azuolas Tubelis. Tubelis put up a game-high 31 points and did damage both inside the paint and behind the 3-point line, knocking down two 3-pointers in the second half. USC held Tubelis scoreless over the final eight minutes.
While it was not USC’s best defensive performance this season, the Trojans were able to limit the Wildcats’ two best scorers. Junior guard James Akinjo and redshirt junior guard Jemarl Brown Jr. combined for three points on 1-of-16 shooting.
There were moments in the second half where it seemed like USC was going to blow it open, but everytime the Wildcats responded and cut the lead. Finally, with seven minutes remaining the Trojans went on a 17-7 run to put the game away for good.
“Our guys handled the adversity well,” said Enfield on the back and forth of the second half.
USC’s offensive output has been an excellent indicator of the Trojans’ success so far this season — when USC has scored 70 points or more, they are 4-0, but they are 1-2 when scoring less than 70.
USC will now drive north to Tempe, Arizona where they will face ASU Saturday at 4:00 p.m.