USC basketball’s comeback attempt against Arizona came up short as the Trojans lost, 73-66, at the Galen Center on Thursday night.
The lowdown: Three of Arizona’s first four baskets were from behind the arc, allowing the Wildcats to jump out to an early lead.
Meanwhile, USC started 0-for-5 from distance, but hitting the long ball wasn’t the Trojans only problem. Chimezie Metu had a dunk rattle out on the first possession and Nick Rakocevic missed a point blank shot under the basket.
A fastbreak exchange from Elijah Stewart to De’Anthony Melton back to Stewart for the jam helped USC draw back as close.
The Trojans closed it to 19-15 with six minutes in the first half, but Arizona bolstered their lead by responding with a three-pointer and a fastbreak.
When Stewart knocked down USC’s first three-point shot of the night with a minute to go, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen responded with triple of his own to give the Wildcats the 29-19 lead at halftime.
The Trojans came back from the half in even worse shape as Arizona launched a 7-0 run to start the second period.
Though Rakocevic put USC on the board in the second, the Wildcats simply continued their run, building a lead of 23 points with 15 minutes to play.
Two missed free throws by Dusan Ristic gave USC some life as Jordan McLaughlin sank back-to-back three-pointers. Elijah Stewart then added two of his own to draw back to just 11 points.
An and-one opportunity for Metu brought it down to eight.
As the two-minute mark approached De’Anthony Melton was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws to pull USC within five.
Shaqquan Aaron’s free throws made it a one-possession game with 1:03 on the clock, but Markkanen’s deep three banked in, putting the pressure back on the Trojans.
USC might have had a chance to complete the comeback, but a questionable flagrant called on Melton’s intentional foul all but ended the Trojans hopes.
Arizona took the win, 73-66.
The takeaway: The first half takeaway is that USC’s offense needs work. The Trojans managed just 19 points as they once again failed to move the ball to create good opportunities. And when they did have open shots, they simply didn’t fall.
it looked like the second half takeaway would be the same, but to their credit, the Trojans fought back and gave themselves a chance in the final minutes.
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That comeback attempt was characterized by everything they hadn’t done while they let Arizona build a double-digit lead — ball movement, energy and aggression.
Even though USC ultimately lost the game, Andy Enfield can use the game as a springboard as they prepare to host ASU and with a huge match up against UCLA looming.
USC’s Player of the game: Elijah Stewart; 20 points, 7/13 FGs, 5/9 3FGs, 1/1 FTs, 4 rebounds, 1 assist.
Stat of the game: Stewart hit four of his five made three-pointers in the second half.
Next on tap: The Trojans stay at home, welcoming ASU to the Galen Center on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 5:30 p.m.