Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The seventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats get a pair of games at home this week, starting with Thursday night's Pac-12 showdown with the USC Trojans from the McKale Center.
Sean Miller's Wildcats are sitting tied atop the Pac-12 standings with Utah at an impressive 10-2 in league play. At 22-3 overall, Arizona has won two straight and eight of its last nine games, including Sunday's 86-59 rout of Washington State in Pullman. The 'Cats are sporting the nation's second- longest homecourt winning streak at 34 games and are an impressive 87-11 at the McKale Center under Miller.
Andy Enfield was brought in to breathe new life into a stagnant USC program. Now in his second season at the helm, there hasn't been much to get excited about. The Trojans are just 10-15 this season and have really had a rough time in conference play at an ugly 2-11, residing in the conference cellar. USC did get one of those victories last time out though, finally halting a nine-game losing streak with a 68-55 win over Oregon State.
Arizona holds a 62-41 advantage in the all-time series with USC. The Wildcats are 37-10 in games played in Tucson. They won the last meeting between the teams, a 73-53 decision last January.
There must be something about Valentine's Day that brings out the best in the Trojans. USC ended a long skid and earned its fifth straight win on the holiday with its blasting of Oregon State. Elijah Stewart led the charge with 19 points. Katin Reinhardt and Julian Jacobs joined him in double figures with 16 and 14 points, respectively, as USC shot .451 from the floor, while limiting the Beavers to a mere .328 effort.
As one can imagine, the numbers aren't all that encouraging at either end of the floor for USC this season. The Trojans are shooting a pedestrian .419 from the floor overall, leading to a modest 67.2 ppg, as the team holds a -2.8 scoring margin as a result. Nikola Jovanovic and Reinhardt currently share the scoring lead on the team at 12.4 ppg, while the 6-11 Jovanovic leads the way on the boards (7.2 rpg). The team did lose some of its limited scoring depth with the recent shoulder injury to Jordan McLaughlin (12.1 ppg), Jacobs (8.1 ppg) will need to continue to step up his game down the stretch for USC, if the team is to finish strong heading into conference tournament action.
The Wildcats jumped all over the Cougars and took a 34-point lead into intermission (53-19) before putting it in cruise control the rest of the way and earning the 27-point victory. Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski all scored 17 points in the romp, while T.J. McConnell finished with 14 points and eight assists. Hollis-Jefferson completed a double-double with a game-high 10 rebounds. Arizona ended up outrebounding Washington State 44-23 in the game.
Arizona has shown very few weaknesses on either end of the floor this season, and as a result, sports an impressive +16.6 scoring margin. The team is netting 75.9 ppg on .497 shooting, while holding foes to a mere 59.3 ppg. Freshman Stanley Johnson, who scored just seven points in the win over Washington State, is one of the real up-and-coming stars in the conference. The 6-7 youngster leads the team in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg). Ashley (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Hollis-Jefferson (11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Tarczewski (8.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg) give the team valuable frontcourt depth. However, Hollis-Jefferson is questionable for this contest with a leg injury. McConnell is a real threat at the point, with the ability to score (9.8 ppg) and distribute (6.0 apg) with relative ease.