When Arizona and USC met the first time last January, the Wildcats did not allow a single Trojan to score in double figures. Things were different - much different - Wednesday night, as USC shot an unconscious 61.1 percent from the field.
Five Trojans scored in double figures led by Eric Wise's 22 points in an 89-78 upset over the 11th-ranked Wildcats at the Galen Center. It is USC's first win over a ranked opponent since knocking off then-No. 10 Arizona in February 2011.
Wise converted 9 of 12 shots and terrorized the UA defense, which also allowed 18 to Byron Wesley, 14 to J.T. Terrell and 12 apiece to Jio Fontan and Aaron Fuller.
"I wanted to come out and do good personally, because the last four or five games I felt I haven't really helped my team," Wise said. "I wanted to come out strong, come out aggressive.
"I had a lot of fun today, finally got my shots to start falling."
The Pac-12 Conference's worst team at defending the 3-point line also allowed the Trojans (13-15, 8-7 Pac-12) to shoot 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
Despite 30 trips to the free-throw line, the Wildcats (23-5, 11-5 Pac-12) shot an identical 12 of 30 from the field in each half to finish at 40 percent. Solomon Hill scored a team-high 21 points, Kevin Parrom added 16 and Mark Lyons chipped in 12 of his 14 from the foul line.
"Our offense, although not perfect, we got to the foul line 30 times," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "I think we had 13 turnovers, and although you would like to have less than that, it wasn't really a problem."
He's right, offense was not the issue.
Trailing by six at the half after the first 20 minutes lacked defense, the Wildcats did not adjust much coming out of the locker room.
USC opened the half on a 9-2 run, restoring its double-digit advantage with a 51-38 edge - its largest of the game - with 17:39 to play.
UA finally came to life and answered with a quick 6-0 burst. Still down 60-53, the Wildcats pulled to within four on Hill's drive-and-kick to Jordin Mayes for a corner 3-pointer with 12:20 left.
But like all other Arizona threats, USC had an answer. Terrell's 3-pointer past the midway point of the half pushed the lead back up to 11. That theme continued until the final buzzer, and the 'Cats never made another serious run.
"It's a tremendous victory for the team and for the program," interim USC head coach Bob Cantu said. "We played for 40 minutes, we got stops when we needed and we shot the ball really, really well. We shot 61 percent, which was big-time against a tremendous team. I believe Arizona's a team that can be in the Final Four, without any question. Tonight was our night."
Miller's plea for defense in the days leading up to the game went unanswered in the first five minutes. Both teams shot the ball well, combining to make eight of the first 14 shots, as UA jumped out to an early 11-10 lead with the help of three 3-pointers.
But it was the Trojans who continued the hot start, pulling in front 21-18 on Wesley's 3-pointer with 10:33 left in the half.
Meanwhile, UA continued to hoist ill-advised long-range attempts despite Miller's wish to get his 7-foot center involved more. Of the Wildcats' first 20 shot attempts, half of them were from beyond the arc and four went in.
It was the Trojans who were attacking the basket, as 22 of their 42 first-half points were in the paint.
When the 'Cats eventually drove into the lane, their attempts were sent back by the USC big men. Omar Oraby, the 7-2 junior center, accounted for three blocks and finished the night with five.
Wesley's 3-pointer with 2:55 to play until the break extended USC's lead to 40-30.
"When you look at this game, it was about our inability to stop USC," Miller said. "And you have to give USC a lot of credit; they made timely shots and big plays."
The only problem in the half, however, was the Men of Troy's inability to hold onto the ball. The Trojans turned the ball over 10 times, and the Wildcats came up with three steals and a block over the final 1:38.
A short 6-2 burst helped Arizona pull within 42-36 at the half.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor