Arizona coach Sean Miller wants his team to realize that a run at the Final Four will require a more consistent effort on defense.
Eric Wise scored 22 points to lead five Southern California players in double figures, propelling the Trojans to an 89-78 victory over No. 11 Arizona on Wednesday night.
USC (13-15, 8-7 Pac-12) shot 33 for 54 from the field, led by Wise's 9 for 12. Byron Wesley added 18 points, J.T. Terrell had 14 and Jio Fontan scored 12 with nine assists. Aaron Fuller also had 12 points.
"We have picked and chosen at times our effort level, and the other thing is that we are just not that good," Miller said. "You have to be extremely talented to pick and choose the effort level you have to play on the defensive end, and we are just not that good. What makes us a good team is when we are clicking on all cylinders on both sides of the ball."
Solomon Hill led Arizona (23-5, 11-5) with 21 points and Kevin Parrom had 16. It was the Wildcats' first loss to USC in five meetings.
"Our offense, although not perfect, we got to the foul line 30 times," Miller said. "I think we had 13 turnovers, and although you would like to have less than that, it wasn't really a problem.
"We had some 3s that didn't go in, but when you look at this game, it was about our inability to stop USC. And you have to give USC a lot of credit; they made timely shots and big plays."
It was USC's first win over a ranked team since it beat then-No. 10 Arizona two years ago.
"It's a tremendous victory for the team and for the program," interim 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."
USC started the second half quickly, building on its 42-36 halftime lead. A 9-2 run after halftime culminated with a block by Dewayne Dedmon that led to a fast-break layup by Fontan, giving the Trojans their biggest lead of the night at 51-38.
The Wildcats pulled to 51-44 on a bucket by Parrom, but USC did everything it could to maintain some breathing room. The large contingent of Arizona fans in USC's home gym were riled up after a 3-pointer from the right baseline by Jordin Mayes narrowed USC's lead to 60-56 with 12:23 left.
USC, though, continued to hit big shots, and the Wildcats never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
"When you did what we just did, it's not about winning (the) conference, it's about winning a game," Miller said. "We are faced with an immense challenge on Saturday (at UCLA), and if we don't play harder on defense I don't think we will win the game, but it will be close."
Terrell's 3-pointer put the Trojans up 69-58. After a bucket by Arizona, Fontan was good on a turnaround jumper in the lane with 8:11 remaining, and USC led 71-60.
"Guys moved the ball tremendously. Every time they were coming back on us, we were able to respond with a basket," Cantu said.
Arizona pulled to 77-71 with 3:15 remaining, but USC held on for one of its biggest wins of the season.
"It's up there," Cantu said. "They're a tremendous team. It was just our night. We were making shots, we got stops — I'm just happy we were able to pull it out."
USC led throughout the game, going up by as many as 10 points in the first half and increasing its lead to 13 in the second half. Arizona held an 18-16 lead midway through the first half, but the Trojans went on a 5-0 run to take the lead and never trailed again.
Wise was in the middle of things throughout, getting the Trojans off to a good start early and maintaining an aggressive mindset on offense.
"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."
USC got off to a fast start behind Wise, who scored seven points in the opening 3 minutes to help the Trojans take a 9-5 lead. But the Wildcats, the best 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12 at 36.2 percent, got a couple of 3s from Parrom and then one from Hill to take their first lead at 11-10 with 16:04 left in the first half.
The Trojans, though, wouldn't go away. When Wesley was good on a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:59 remaining, USC had its biggest lead of the half at 40-30. It was one of four 3-pointers in the first half by the Trojans, who shot 58 percent (18 for 31) in the opening 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, Arizona went cold after its fast start, shooting just 40 percent (12 for 30) in the half.
USC was led at the break by Wise, who had 11 points, and Wesley, who had 10. Omar Oraby, USC's 7-foot-2 backup center, was a presence in the paint with seven first-half rebounds and three blocked shots.
Hill's 12 points led the Wildcats, who scored the final four points of the first half to cut USC's lead to 42-36.