LOS ANGELES, CA – Arizona Basketball (15-8, 9-8) played their best game of the year as the Wildcats delivered win No. 300 for Sean Miller in their 81-72 win over No. 17 USC.
James Akinjo scored 20 points and dished out seven assists, meanwhile, Azoulas Tubelis added with 16 points and 15 rebounds, and Jordan Brown finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the 81-72 Arizona Basketball upset of No. 17 USC.
In arguably their best game played all season, it came at an opportune time for the Wildcats, especially as it was just on the heels of a devastating loss to UCLA on Thursday evening.
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Coming in, if Arizona was going to pull off the upset, it was going to need a complete team performance, and luckily, the Wildcats got one, as the team finished on 27-64 shooting from the field (8-17 from three).
Early on, the Cats brought the intensity, exchanging buckets for most of the first half. Arizona would find a rhythm later in the half when the Wildcats hit back-to-back threes by Tubelis and then Akinjo to make it 27-21 with 6:28 to play.
Arizona would even go up by as many as eight in the half after a made layup from Brown to make it 33-25 with just under four minutes to play.
However, just as Arizona began to get comfortable, the Trojans would go on a run a bit to close the half, even pulling within two.
Fortunately, for the Wildcats, it was Arizona who would close the door on the Trojans’ run, ending the half with a six-point lead at 37-31.
Hoping to not have a repeat of Thursday nights’ game, Arizona Basketball would need to play a strong half of basketball if they were to come away victorious.
And just as we feared, USC came out strong, opening the second half on a 13-7 run to tie it at 44. But after back-to-back buckets by the Wildcats, the four-point lead seemed to provide enough of a cushion for Arizona to allow them to hold on to this one.
The Trojans would cut Arizona’s lead to four at 51-47 after a pair of free throws by Evan Mobley, but as we all saw, the Wildcats would then go on a 16-8 run over the next seven-plus minutes of game action to give Arizona the 12-point lead at 67-55 with 6:09 to play.
Leading comfortably, USC would get the lead down to eight points a couple of times, but each time Arizona was able to respond with a strong counterattack of their own to continue to control the pace and the tempo of this one.
The Wildcats would hold their biggest at 13 points with 0:49 to play when Dalen Terry converted on both free throw attempts, but the Trojans who hit a couple of shots at the end to make it single digits before Arizona ultimately came away with the 81-72 win.
With the win, the Wildcats improve to 15-8 (9-8) on the season and will close out their year at home against Washington State and Washington next week. The win also gives Sean Miller win No. 300 while at Arizona, and he is also one of the fastest coaches to reach 300 wins in the conference.
In a year that has been a bit of an unorthodox one for the Wildcats, and no postseason to play for, “It hasn’t been easy,” Miller said “It says a lot about our group of guys that they continue to fight.”
And fought they have as Arizona currently sits with a 15-8 record, even without freshman Daniel Batcho, and Jemarl Baker now having been out numerous weeks. Assuming most everyone returns from this group, and this team could be a special team next season.
Listen to head coach Sean Miller following the teams’ win.