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February 27, 2013

No. 11 Arizona to open SoCal swing at USC

Arizona head coach Sean Miller is not expecting to see the same USC team that his 11th-ranked Wildcats pummeled earlier this season in Tucson.

UA scored its most lopsided victory of the Pac-12 Conference slate to this point in a 74-54 win over the Trojans on Jan. 26. The teams will meet again Wednesday night, this time at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. PST.

When the teams played the first time, the Trojans (12-15, 7-7 Pac-12) were playing in just their fourth game under interim head coach Bob Cantu. The Wildcats (23-4, 11-4 Pac-12) put four scorers in double figures and limited USC to just 28.1 percent shooting.

Immediately after, the Trojans reeled off four consecutive victories - including a pair on the road at UCLA and Stanford - before dropping their last two. The Bruins returned the favor Sunday with a 75-59 win over their rivals.

"Really, when they left our game other than [Sunday's] game against UCLA, they've maybe played their basketball all season long," Miller said of USC.

Miller credits the change in the Trojans' look to the faster tempo under Cantu.

"The tempo is similar to UCLA," said Miller, whose Wildcats will face the Bruins on Saturday to cap the L.A. roadtrip. "[The Trojans] thrive in transition. A lot of their 3s, they make in transition. They have a number of players that can handle the ball, pass and score.

"As the game opens up that's when they're at their best, no doubt about it."

J.T. Terrell is averaging 14.3 points over the last six games. In that span, the junior guard shot 45 percent from the 3-point line and made at least three baskets from beyond the arc in each of the last five contests.

Terrell, USC's second-leading scorer, made 6 of 14 shots - 4 of 8 from long range - in Sunday's 75-59 home loss to the Bruins. Terrell made just 1 of 7 shots and missed all five of his 3-point attempts in the first meeting against UA, which has struggled against defending the 3 for most of the season.

The 'Cats allow teams to shoot 35.7 percent from distance - which ranks last in the Pac-12.

"J.T. Terrell really started to play well," Miller said. "He's just a guy that can make shots. He went on a run from 3, and the percentage that he's shot since our game and the points per game for USC has been a much different story."

But the bulk of the Trojans' frontcourt also has the attention of Miller, starting with leading scorer Eric Wise, whose season average is seven-tenths better than Terrell at 11.9 points per game.

"They have a lot of talented guys, whether it's Wise, who can score, and a number of 7-footers," Miller said.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats are looking to regain their focus on the defensive end of the floor as they try for a fourth consecutive victory.

Although tied atop the Pac-12 standings with Oregon, and just one-half game ahead of UCLA, Miller was unhappy with his team's second-half performance in last Saturday's 73-56 win over Washington State.

The Cougars shot 52.2 percent after halftime and cut a 22-point deficit in half before Kevin Parrom's hot 3-point shooting held off the charge.

Miller said his team - or, more specifically, everyone but his freshmen - has a tendency to pick and choose when to lock down on defense.

Miller is looking for "more durability" on that end of the floor with just three regular-season games remaining.

"Being able to do it longer throughout, not just for brief moments or even long stretches and then go away," Miller said. "Just being able to endure from the first possession to the last and try to be good throughout the whole game on defense. When we are that, that's definitely when we're at our best."

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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