Coming off a road sweep of the Washington schools, Arizona improved to 9-1 overall with the L.A. schools coming to McKale Center with the Wildcats, UCLA and USC within a game of each other in the Pac-12 standings.
After a highly competitive first half Thursday night, when freshman forward Azuolas Tubelis had 17 points and seven rebounds, things got away from Arizona. USC dropped 52 points in the second half while shooting 58 percent from the field in the Trojans’ 87-73 victory over the Wildcats.
Zoooooooo! Run the floor big man!
UA 19, USC 15 | 10:09 1st
— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) January 8, 2021
Tubelis finished with a career-high 31 points along with eight rebounds and three assists. He had an efficient game from the field, going 11 for 16, including 2 for 4 from behind the arc.
Arizona’s backcourt entered the game averaging a combined 27.9 points between James Akinjo and Jemarl Baker Jr. The two guards were ice cold, struggling from the field, combining to make 1 for 16 for an underwhelming three points.
Arizona (9-2, 3-2 Pac-12) struggled against USC’s defense, shooting 40 percent from the field while going 4 for 16 from beyond the arc. On the other end of the floor, the Wildcats had no answer for the Trojans (7-2, 2-1) from 3-point range as they went 8 for 14 with guard Isaiah White making 3 for 5. White finished with a team-high 22 points.
Here are Ira Lee and Tubelis giving their thoughts on what went wrong and how the team can fix the issues moving forward:
Arizona has dominated opponents with its rebounding throughout the season, outperforming the competition by an average of 11.4 rebounds a game. The Wildcats won the battle in the first half, 24-15, then everything changed in the second half as USC outrebounded them 17-8. The teams finished with 32 rebounds each.
Throughout most of the game, Arizona was able to defend and score in the paint against a talented USC frontcourt. The Wildcats led in points-in-the-paint 28-18 midway through the second half. That’s when the Trojans started hitting from all ends of the court and found ways to attack the Wildcats’ frontcourt. They scored 30 points inside and finished the game by winning the battle in the paint, 38-34.
USC forward Evan Mobley played as advertised, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. In the second half, Mobley had 12 points and eight rebounds to help USC close Arizona out.
Here’s Sean Miller talking about the game. He shared his thoughts on the game Tubelis had in a losing effort:
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.