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February 23, 2012

Arizona guards lead 'Cats past USC



At this time of the year, Arizona head coach Sean Miller said Thursday night that "sometimes it's a matter of figuring out how to win and moving on to the next one."

The Wildcats did just that, overcoming a lackluster first half to pull away for a 70-54 win over USC at McKale Center.

It was the team's 20th win of the season, which was the most important thing for Miller.

"For me, the story of tonight's game is the fact we earned our 20th win," the third-year head coach said. "It hasn't been an easy road to get to 20."

The 'Cats (20-9, 11-5 Pac-12 Conference) shot 53.8 percent (14 of 26) after halftime and were paced by a pair of guards.

UA senior Kyle Fogg led the way with a team-high 16 points and a career-best 12 rebounds. It was the second time in the last three games that Fogg has set a new personal-best rebound total.

"Since last week I have put more pressure on myself to have better defense," said Fogg, who made 6 of 12 shots from the field. "I was working to help my teammates box out the other team."

Freshman Josiah Turner - who came off the bench because Miller elected to start outgoing senior Brendon Lavender - played what Miller called "his best game at Arizona."

In 31 minutes, Turner finished with a career-high 15 points and six assists without committing a turnover. He made 6 of 12 shots, tripling his shot attempt total from the team's loss at Washington last Saturday.

"Tonight I went out and played more aggressively," said Turner, who added that teammate Solomon Hill urged him to look for his shot more. "It was very motivating because I look up to [Hill]."

Leading by four after a choppy first half, the Wildcats went on a 7-2 run in the first two minutes of the second half to extend the lead to 35-26.

UA took its first double-digit advantage at the 16:07 mark and an Angelo Chol three-point play pushed the lead to 16 - the largest lead of the game to that point - with 10:46 remaining.

From that point on, USC (6-22, 1-14 Pac-12) never threatened and that allowed Miller to empty his bench.

Among the players who played down the stretch was sophomore guard Jordin Mayes, who played his first game since suffering a stress reaction to his left foot Feb. 2 at California. Mayes played two minutes and converted his lone shot attempt.

Miller said that he plans to use Mayes on Saturday in the home finale against UCLA.

"[Mayes] did contact (in practice) for the first time yesterday," Miller said. "It was the first time that he's been completely pain free.

"It's going to be a slow build-up. I think the real role he'll have will be at Arizona State (in the season finale March 4)."

USC was paced by a game-high 18 points from guard Byron Wesley.

Trailing 24-16 after a sloppy opening 12 minutes, the Wildcats finished the half strong with a 12-0 run over the final 6:35. Meanwhile, USC missed its final nine attempts of the half.

Turner capped the spurt with a steal, dunk and buzzer-beating floater in the final minute to give the 'Cats a 28-24 advantage heading into the locker room.

The Wildcats will play their final home game Saturday against the Bruins. Tipoff at McKale Center is scheduled for noon MST.

In addition to Senior Day, UA will also don new Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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