Arizona Basketball

No. 11 Arizona (23-4, 11-4) at USC (12-15, 7-7): UA historically struggles against Trojans in L.A. before facing UCLA


Date: Tonight
Time: 7:30 p.m., Tucson time
Location: Galen Center (10,258), Los Angeles, Calif.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Kevin Calabro/Ernie Kent)

Kevin O'Neill

Kevin O’Neill

USC’s season is filled with “What ifs …” considering it has an RPI strength-of-schedule rating of No. 19 (as published by The Trojans’ murderous schedule includes 12 games against teams ranked among the Top 50 in RPI. USC’s record in those games is 1-11, with the lone win at UCLA on Jan. 30, a week after the Bruins beat Arizona 84-73 in Tucson. Kevin O’Neill scheduled his way out of a job, fired by USC athletic director Pat Haden on Jan. 13. In the USC’s 11 defeats against Top 50 teams — including the likes of New Mexico, Marquette, San Diego State and Illinois — the Trojans have been outscored by an average of 11.8 points. O’Neill’s scheduling was honorable — it follows the plans laid by his former boss Lute Olson at Arizona — but a coach must understand the state of his program before putting together such a difficult schedule.

Does Arizona historically get caught looking ahead to UCLA when it plays USC first on this L.A. road trip? If that is the reason why, then yes it has. The Wildcats are 6-8 against USC in this scenario since Olson was hired in 1983-84. Arizona is 0-2 under Sean Miller when playing USC before UCLA on this road trip. Because of scheduling quirks, the UA did not play USC and UCLA in consecutive games on the road until Olson’s fifth season — 1987-88, when the Wildcats advanced to their first Final Four. Arizona has played at UCLA before facing USC 10 times. O’Neill ironically coached Arizona to a victory at USC in 2007 before losing big at UCLA 82-60. The Wildcats fell apart, losing eight of their last 12 games that season.

Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson

Arizona has 48 assists compared to 33 turnovers in its three-game winning streak, a departure from the reckless decision-making the Wildcats showed earlier in the season. Another contributing factor is the conversion of passes to Arizona’s big men, particularly freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski. In the last three games, Tarczewski has made 12 of his 17 field-goal attempts (70.6 percent) in the last three games. Tarczewski is shooting 64.0 percent from the field over his last six games (16-of-25). Arizona shooting guard Nick Johnson has almost a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Pac-12 games. He has 51 assists and 27 turnovers. UA point guard Mark Lyons has 48 assists with 40 turnovers but he has shown the ability to take his opponent off the dribble and open scoring possibilities for the Wildcats.

Dewayne Dedmon

Dewayne Dedmon

USC junior forward Dewayne Dedmon continues to be the Trojans’ most productive player although he has not produced at a high rate in recent games. Dedmon, who did not play organized basketball until his senior season in high school, had 10 points and 11 rebounds vs. Cal on Jan. 5 for his first career double-double. He nearly matched that on Jan. 10 at Colorado with 10 points and 9 rebounds. The next game at Utah on Jan. 12, he had 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for his second career double-double. O’Neill was let go the following day and Dedmon has not posted a double-double since. Dedmon has recorded double figures in rebounds eight times and has seven or more rebounds 15 times. He registered 12 rebounds in the loss to UCLA on Sunday.

Remember Arizona’s first-half woes? Over the last five games, the Wildcats have resolved that problem. They are outscoring opponents by an average of six points before halftime in that span. The Wildcats put together two solid games against the Washington schools last week. Arizona made a combined 59.1 percent of its field goal attempts (26-of-44), including 8-of-15 from three-point range, in the second half of those victories over Washington and Washington State. Believe it or not, Arizona overall is a balanced team posting a plus-5.5 scoring margin in the first half and a plus-5.3 margin in the second. (Thanks to Arizona sports information specialist Richard Paige for those statistics).

USC conversely continues to have first-half struggles but plays favorably in the second half. It has been outscored 896-828 in the first half, while outscoring the opposition in the second halves and overtime by a combined score of 953-923. USC has also been out-rebounded by 47 in the first half of games, while owning a 63-rebound edge in the second half. USC has 193 turnovers in the first half and 174 in the second half. The biggest descrepancy is on the defensive side, where USC has allowed opposition teams to shoot 44.2 percent in the first half (333-for-754), including a 39.3 percentage from three-point range (92-for-234), while holding them to a 39.8 FG percentage (300-for-754) and a 31.1 three-point field-goal percentage (74-for-238) in the second half and overtime of games.

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner


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