Men’s basketball disappoints on the road against Wildcats
In the first half, Arizona lived up to its title as one of college basketball’s elite scoring offenses. The Wildcats had the Trojans scrambling by shooting over 50% from the field and draining four 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the game. Even after an 8-0 run by USC, Arizona led at the half 33-23. “We had trouble stopping them,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “They physically and athletically hurt us in the first half on the boards, got some easy baskets and we had some really dumb turnovers. We had live ball turnovers that turned into transition baskets, so that hurt us and gave them the opportunity to get out in front.” USC will head to Desert Financial Arena to face off against Arizona State Saturday in Tempe. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. The deficit expanded in the second half with Arizona gaining a 15-point lead by forcing four turnovers in the first three minutes out of the break. As for USC’s other top freshmen, guard Ethan Anderson and forward Isaiah Mobley took a step back Thursday, logging only single-digit scoring performances that left Arizona’s defense unfazed. “Our league is very good this year top to bottom,” Enfield said in an interview with 790 KABC. “The home court means so much in this league so we battled tonight and we’re going to go battle Saturday and play a little more efficiently.” Senior forward Nick Rakocevic’s 18 points and seven rebounds were not enough to will the Trojans to victory. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) With less than a minute to go, USC cut Arizona’s lead to 5 with key threes from senior guards Daniel Utomi and Jonah Mathews. Unfortunately for the Trojans, the effort was not enough to complete the comeback attempt. By the end of the game, the Wildcats had converted 18 points off turnovers while only allowing six turnovers themselves. Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu led USC with 23 points scored over 37 minutes, the second most minutes he has played all season. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) Arizona freshman guard Josh Green was explosive offensively for Arizona, logging 18 points and shooting 50% from the field. USC freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu acted as USC’s crutch for the majority of the game and led the team in scoring, rebounds, and blocks. All eyes were on Okongwu’s matchup with one of the NCAA’s other top centers, Arizona freshman Zeke Nnaji. Both came into the game averaging more than 16 points and eight rebounds per game and are first-round prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft. In the end, Okongwu edged out Nnaji on the stat sheet, scoring 23 points on 64% shooting to Nnaji’s 18 and 46%, though Nnaji’s 11 rebounds won him the rebounding battle. The USC men’s basketball team fell to No. 23 Arizona 85-80 in Tucson Thursday night. The loss dropped the Trojans’ road record to 4-3 and the team’s overall record to 17-6. It also continues a 13-year winless streak at McKale Center for USC. Still, with 10 minutes left, the Trojans found a way to keep themselves in the game. Senior forward Nick Rakocevic helped cut Arizona’s lead to single digits through the combination of a 14-point explosion in the second half and a defensive effort that prevented Arizona from scoring a field goal for the game’s final eight minutes. Even after multiple timeouts to stop the Wildcats’ momentum, the Trojans still could not produce an effective offensive strategy for much of the second half. This, coupled with a lack of offensive rebounds, gave USC a tough hole to dig itself out of, trailing by as much as 20 in the second half.