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By this late in the season, Sean Miller usually has his starting lineup and role players pretty locked into position.

But with about seven guys he considers \u201cstarters,\u201d Miller started a brand-new lineup Thursday against USC and says he will keep juggling things the rest of the way.

\u201cThe way we\u2019re gonna do the starting lineup moving forward, because of how many players have been injured, is we have to look at it more on a game-by-game basis, what\u2019s gonna allow us to get off to a good start and maybe be the best for us,\u201d Miller said. \u201cI think we\u2019ll have a number of different lineups here down the stretch.\u201d

Against USC, Miller started Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Kadeem Allen, Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen and Chance Comanche, and Dusan Ristic\u2019s ankle injury appeared to have only a little to do with it, since Comanche has played well over the last few weeks, and particularly while filling in for Ristic in Washington.

\u201cDusan is working his way back,\u201d Miller said. \u201cI think he\u2019s about 100 percent but he missed some time in practices and Chance has played really well so he got the nod tonight.\u201d


The lineup marked the first time all season that Rawle Alkins has come off the bench, but his production was typical: He had 12 points, four assists (with three turnovers), and four rebounds while making all five shots he took \u2013 including a pair of 3-pointers.

\u201cRawle is a great teammate,\u201d Jackson-Cartwright said when asked about Alkins not starting. \u201cI didn\u2019t think it affected him at all. He came in and did his job. I think he would have done the same thing if he started.\u201d

Said Miller, \u201cRawle\u2019s one of our cornerstones. He\u2019s one of our pillars. Hasn\u2019t missed a practice; hasn\u2019t missed a game. He\u2019s very, very unselfish. It\u2019s not one thing he does well; it\u2019s the fact he\u2019s so versatile and can do so many different things.\u201d

Miller said Markkanen has been the most consistent of UA\u2019s freshmen (though he\u2019s been slumping from the perimeter recently) but said all three freshmen have been a very consistent group.

\u201cAs much as we\u2019ve asked of them they\u2019ve delivered,\u201d Miller said.


Trier has made 8 of 11 3-point shots over his past two games, after making just 10 of 33 before that since he became eligible on Jan. 21, but he isn\u2019t yet proclaiming himself back to normal.

He\u2019s still only played 10 of UA\u2019s 29 games so far, sort of in the \u201cDecember\u201d of his own personal season.

\u201cI think every game allows me to be more comfortable,\u201d Trier said. \u201cWhen you think about it, this late in the season, you\u2019re starting to hit your peak and play your best basketball and I\u2019m still a little early compared to everybody else. It\u2019s hard to gauge. But I just gotta go out there and compete for my team and do what\u2019s right every time I step on the court.\u201d


UA\u2019s other hot shooter these days is Jackson-Cartwright, who went 7 for 10 combined last week in Washington, and then made 3 of 4 on Thursday, for a three-game total of 10 for 14 (71.4 percent).

\u201cThe guy I\u2019m most proud of is Parker,\u201d Miller said. \u201cHe\u2019s gone through a lot. A high ankle sprain for a basketball player, it\u2019s not an easy injury for anybody but it really took him out of things for two months. He wasn\u2019t shooting the ball well for a long time.\u201d

Jackson-Cartwright said he thought he\u2019s been in a good rhythm, but credited his teammate for finding him.


Of course, Miller was asked plenty about UCLA towards the end of the post-game news conference (he typically isn\u2019t available otherwise to local media before the second game of a two-game home weekend).

When asked if he and the players were excited about the Top 5 matchup, he said:

\u201cI hope they\u2019re excited. I probably ruined their excitement a little bit after the game but that\u2019s kind of my job. To allow them to be the most successful, they have to be really focused on task at hand. If you start to get too excited about the game and everything about it you end up coming unglued, or you have that anxiety we\u2019ve seen in these big games when you\u2019re not just yourself.

\u201cAnd for us to have a chance to beat UCLA we really have to be ourselves. We have to be at the top of our game, we have to play great defense, great offense. Can\u2019t be just the starting group that plays well. We need guys off the bench and that\u2019s really what happened in L.A. We played a great game on both sides and no matter who beats UCLA that\u2019s what you have to do.\u201d

When asked what exactly he said that might have \u201cruined\u201d their excitement, Miller said:

\u201cFor us, we have to be able to embrace the challenge, but at the same time recognize this isn\u2019t an easy thing. We\u2019re gonna have to play with incredible effort, incredible togetherness. We don\u2019t have time to have breakdown defensively and with that they\u2019re still gonna score.\u201d

And, yeah, well, it is exciting. He continued:

\u201cThat\u2019s what\u2019s so exciting, to be able to play a team like them this late in the year for what\u2019s at stake, that\u2019s what we all expected when we came to Arizona. It\u2019s fun for the fans and I think to a certain degree we enjoy the challenge but it\u2019s an immense challenge. To play UCLA and to beat them have to play really great and that\u2019s what we\u2019re gonna try to do.\u201d

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Eleven 3-pointers meant Arizona could cover up some defensive issues pretty well Thursday, but the Wildcats know that trick might not work next time.

That\u2019s because the nation\u2019s most efficient offensive team, UCLA, is coming to McKale Center on Saturday, after the Wildcats pulled out a 90-77 win Thursday over USC despite the Trojans\u2019 52.9-percent shooting.

\u201cWe have to play better defense to compete with them,\u201d guard Allonzo Trier said of UCLA, after leading the Wildcats with a season-high 25 points Thursday. \u201cIt\u2019ll be a challenge. Something we\u2019re looking forward to.\u201d

Even though both teams shot just over 50 percent, the difference was simple math: The Trojans were most successful crashing through the UA defense en route to the basket, getting emphatic two-pointers, but making six fewer 3s than the Wildcats did.

Arizona was 11 of 20 from 3-point range while USC was 5 of 15.

The Trojans also had 14 turnovers that UA converted into 23 points, while the Wildcats turned it over only eight times.

The 11 3-pointers were the most Arizona has made in a Pac-12 game this season and second most overall; the Wildcats hit 13 of 24 at Missouri on Dec. 10.

Trier made 4 of 6 3-pointers while Parker Jackson-Cartwright hit 3 of 4, and freshmen Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons each had two.

Surprisingly, UA\u2019s best 3-point shooter over the first half of the season, Lauri Markkanen, missed the only long-range shot he took.

While Trier led the Wildcats with 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting overall, Alkins had 12 and Dusan Ristic 10. Markkanen had 11 points and seven rebounds.

It was Trier\u2019s second straight 20-plus scoring effort, and he\u2019s made 8 of 11 3-pointers in the Wildcats\u2019 last two games after returning from his 19-game suspension on Jan. 21.

\u201cIt\u2019s just his path this year,\u201d UA coach Sean Miller said. \u201cIt\u2019s taken him some time to really show what a better 3-point shooter he is.\u201d

The win, UA\u2019s 21st straight at McKale Center and fifth in a row, moved the Wildcats to 26-3 overall and 15-1 in the Pac-12, where they remain a game ahead of Oregon. USC dropped to 21-7 and 8-7.

UA trailed by up to nine in the first half, and after the Wildcats led 44-39 at halftime, USC pulled within two points early in the second half, 51-49, after Bennie Boatwright hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half.

It was typical behavior for Boatwright, a onetime UA recruiting target who did not play in UA\u2019s win at the Galen Center last month because of a sprained knee. Boatwright led USC in scoring with 23 points, while four of USC\u2019s starters shot better than 50 percent.

\u201cThey really ran good action,\u201d Trier said of USC\u2019s offense. \u201cBennie made a lot of shots and (Chimezie) Metu is a load down there. They have some really talented guys.\u201d

But after Boatwright made it 51-49, the Wildcats went on a 15-4 run to take control of the game. At the end of the run, they led 66-53, after Trier made a layup and then scored again after a quick turnover in the USC backcourt.

The Wildcats shot 63.2 percent through the first 12 minutes of the second half, continuing a blistering pace set late in the first half. They shot only 29.4 percent through the first 9:58 of the game.

Over the final 2:11 of the first half, Arizona finished with a flurry of four 3-pointers to pull out of an early slump and take its 44-39 halftime lead.

The Wildcats allowed USC to shoot 58.3 percent through the first 17 minutes of the game and trailed by up to nine points before making a late run in the half. The Wildcats went on a 6-0 run to take a 38-37 lead with 1:43 left and gained their final first-half edge after Trier sank a 3-pointer as time expired.

UA pulled out of its last nine-point hole with an unusual four-point swing: Markkanen sank a 10-foot shot while Chance Comanche was fouled on the same play, then going to the free-throw line to hit both ends of a one-and-one. That made it 33-28 with 4:19 left and UA kept going from there.

But defense was an issue for the Wildcats throughout the half: USC shot 57.1 percent from the field, while Boatwright and Jordan McLaughlin each had nine points to lead the Trojans.

While Arizona took an early 13-8 lead, the Trojans went on a 18-4 run to take leads of nine points midway through the first half, beating the Wildcats inside and shooting jumpers over their defense.

One of the few breaks they had during that stretch was when USC\u2019s Elijah Stewart raced through the UA defense for a dunk \u2014 but was called for a technical foul for hanging too long on the rim.

\u201cWe just didn\u2019t meet their energy to start the game and it showed,\u201d Trier said. \u201cWe tried to do a better job in the second half.\u201d

With Kadeem Allen and Ristic both coming off injuries, and sophomore Comanche playing well in Ristic\u2019s absence last week in Washington, Miller shook up his starting lineup. He went with Jackson-Cartwright, Allen and Trier on the perimeter, with Comanche and Markkanen inside.

Miller said he will probably continue to juggle the starting lineup for the rest of the season, depending on what he believes will give UA the best chance to start the game. He said Comanche\u2019s improved play also led to his start.

Both teams struggled early in the game, with UA missing its first four shots and Trier committing a turnover before Allen scored to tie the game at 2. UA took a 13-8 lead with 12 minutes left before McLaughlin tied it up at 13 with two-point and 3-point jumpers at the beginning of the Trojans\u2019 run.

The early defensive troubles may have been long forgotten by UA\u2019s shooting, but not by Miller.

\u201cAt times we played some good defense and at times we didn\u2019t,\u201d Miller said. \u201cYou\u2019re only going to go as far as your excellence on both ends. It can\u2019t be just one. To beat UCLA certainly that\u2019s what\u2019s going to be required.\u201d

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Sean Miller\u2019s daily roster availability has been uncontrollably close to that of NFL teams, whose weekly reports list players as (a) probable, (b) questionable and (c) out.

Arizona leads the Pac-12 in cumulative torn ACLs, sprained ankles, broken fingers and 19-game suspensions. Yet through it all \u2014 29 unsettled games \u2014 the Wildcats are 26-3. They have been neither probable nor questionable, and certainly not out.

They have been on.

Arizona has won 26 games in a season at the earliest date \u2014 Feb. 23 \u2014 in school history, and the one constant is Miller, a consummate and skillful manager, who has deployed six different starting lineups without giving an inch in either the Top 25 or the Pac-12.

This isn\u2019t recommended for anyone\u2019s central nervous system, but I swear Miller seems to thrive on the chaos. As the Wildcats rallied Thursday from what might\u2019ve been USC\u2019s best first half of the year \u2013 the Trojans shot 57 percent \u2013 Miller never sat down. He made 27 substitutions.

His newly arranged bench scored 30 in a 90-77 victory.

I\u2019m not fronting Miller as the coach of the year or anything like that, because his team\u2019s performance speaks for itself. The only time Miller showed any expression other than determination Thursday followed a 3-pointer by Parker Jackson-Cartwright, giving Arizona a 78-62 lead.

Miller balled up a fist and grinned for about 9/32nds of a second. It was one of the few times in four months he had a chance to exhale.

After a defensive adjustment in the first half, Arizona was so impressive that you\u2019re tempted to ask if it has ever been better than 26-3 through 29 games.

It has. Twice. The Wildcats were 27-2 in the 1988 Final Four season and again in Miller\u2019s run to the 2014 Elite Eight.

It\u2019s time to recognize that this isn\u2019t just mirrors and smoke. That is rarefied air at Arizona and anywhere.

I mean, USC was shooting 60 percent with 12 minutes remaining and somehow trailed 60-51. Dusan Ristic played off the bench for the first time this season, as did Rawle Alkins. Both scored in double figures. With such resourceful use of his roster, Miller broke down the Trojans\u2019 defense so thoroughly that his club made a ridiculous 70 percent of their shots \u2014 22 of 31\u2014 from late in the first half to overturn a 9-point deficit and lead 71-55 lead.

If it wasn\u2019t the best 15 minutes of Arizona\u2019s season, what was?

Miller is an old-school grinder who didn\u2019t punch out until the final five seconds. When Cartwright-Jackson was dribbling out the shot clock with 15 seconds to go, Miller got his guard\u2019s attention and shouted \u201cshoot it with three seconds.\u201d

Cartwright-Jackson swished a 3-pointer.

Talk about one shining moment.

In an interesting juxtaposition, the Pac-12 Networks rebroadcast an All-Access look at USC\u2019s basketball coach, Andy Enfield, an hour before Thursday\u2019s game. Trojans point guard Jordan McLaughlin said of his coach: \u201cHe\u2019s mellow. He gives you your freedom. He\u2019s a fun guy to play for.\u201d

Center Chimezie Metu added \u201chaving fun is what the program is based on.\u201d

Under Miller, Arizona has led the league in a lot of things, but rarely fun and certainly not a quotient of mellow. An Arizona practice session is like preparing an audit for the IRS. The fun comes after the taxes are filed and the season is over.

\u201cI probably ruined our team\u2019s excitement a little bit after the game,\u201d Miller said of the post-game speech. \u201cThat\u2019s my job.\u201d

USC has the size, quickness and talent to play with anybody. But the Trojans\u2019 only conference victories are against teams with a combined 38-84 Pac-12 record. You wonder if they have requisite toughness, belief and coaching to be anything more than the opening act for a UCLA weekend at McKale.

On Thursday, they did not.

Earlier this week, ESPN\u2019s Jay Bilas noted that Arizona is the slowest team in the Pac-12 (and No. 300 nationally) with 66 possessions per game. But it\u2019s not the 66 possessions that carries meaning. It\u2019s that Arizona averages 1.17 points per possession, which is 26th nationally.

On Thursday the Wildcats had 70 possessions and averaged 1.3 points per possession. That\u2019s what wins games. Miller coaches effectiveness, not pace.

Justifiably, a lot was made of USC\u2019s wickedly difficult late-season schedule. The Trojans have now played No. 4 Arizona, No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 Oregon in succession, losing all by double figures.

That\u2019s life at the top of the Pac-12, and it\u2019s not unknown to Arizona. In 2002, a year after the Wildcats reached the national championship game and lost four starters to the NBA draft, Arizona opened the 2001-02 season against this list of opponents:

No. 2 Maryland.

No. 6 Florida.

No. 23 Texas.

No. 8 Kansas.

No. 5 Illinois.

Arizona won four of those games. So don\u2019t expect UA fans to give USC a shoulder upon which to sob.

When No. 5 UCLA arrives Saturday at McKale, there will be nothing questionable nor probable about Arizona\u2019s willingness to play in a game of such high stakes.

Bring it.

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Arizona couldn\u2019t stop USC from shooting 52.9 percent Thursday, but the Wildcats found a pretty good workaround.

In an 90-77 win over the Trojans at McKale Center, UA hit 11 of 20 3-pointers and shot 50.8 percent overall \u2013 while collecting 23 points off 14 USC turnovers.

The 11 3-pointers were the most Arizona has made in a Pac-12 game this season and second most overall; the Wildcats hit 13 of 24 at Missouri on Dec. 10.

Allonzo Trier led the Wildcats with a season-high 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting while Rawle Alkins had 12 and Dusan Ristic 10. Lauri Markkanen had 11 points and seven rebounds,

The win, UA\u2019s 21st straight at McKale Center and fifth in a row, moved the Wildcats to 26-3 overall and 15-1 in the Pac-12, where they remain a game ahead of Oregon. USC dropped to 21-7 and 8-7.

The fourth-ranked Wildcats will next host No. 5 UCLA in a rare Top 5 showdown on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. in McKale Center.

UA trailed by up to nine in the first half, and after the Wildcats led 44-39 at halftime, USC pulled within two points early in the second half, 51-49, after Bennie Boatwright hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half. Boatwright led USC in scoring with 23 points.

But the Wildcats went on a 15-4 run to take control of the game. At the end of the run, they led 66-53, after Trier made a layup and then scored again after a quick turnover in the USC backcourt.

The Wildcats shot 63.2 percent through the first 12 minutes of the second half, continuing a blistering pace set late in the first half. They shot only 29.4 percent through the first 9:58 of the game.

Over the final 2:11 of the first half, Arizona finished with a flurry of four 3-pointers over the to pull out of an early slump and take its 44-39 halftime lead.

The Wildcats allowed USC to shoot 58.3 percent through the first 17 minutes of the game and trailed by up to nine points before making a late run in the half. The Wildcats went on a 6-0 run to take a 38-37 lead with 1:43 left and gained their final first-half edge after Trier sank a 3-pointer as time expired.

UA pulled out of its last nine-point hole with an unusual four-point swing: Markkanen sank a 10-foot shot while Chance Comanche was fouled on the same play, then going to the free-throw line to hit both ends of a one-and-one. That made it 33-28 with 4:19 left and UA kept going from there.

Trier finished the half with 10 points to lead UA, which shot 45.7 percent from the field after shooting under 30 percent for the first 10 minutes.

But defense was an issue for the Wildcats throughout the half: USC shot 57.1 percent from the field, while Bennie Boatwright and Jordan McLaughlin each had nine points to lead the Trojans.

While Arizona took an early 13-8 lead, the Trojans went on a 18-4 run to take leads of nine points midway through the first half, beating the Wildcats inside and shooting jumpers over their defense.

One of the few breaks they had during that stretch was when USC\u2019s Elijah Stewart raced through the UA defense for a dunk \u2013 but was called for a technical foul for hanging too long on the rim.

With Kadeem Allen and Dusan Ristic both coming off injuries, and sophomore Comanche playing well in Ristic\u2019s absence last week in Washington, Arizona coach Sean Miller shook up his starting lineup. He went with Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Allen and Trier on the perimeter, with Comanche and Markkanen inside.

Miller said on his pregame radio interview that both Allen and Ristic had progressed. While Allen started, Ristic played eight minutes off the bench in the first half.

\u201cThey\u2019re healthy and ready to play and contribute,\u201d he said.

Both teams struggled early in the game, with UA missing its first four shots and Trier committing a turnover before Allen scored to tie the game at 2. UA took a 13-8 lead with 12 minutes left before McLaughlin tied it up at 13 with two-point and 3-point jumpers at the beginning of the Trojans\u2019 run.

The Wildcats shot just 29.4 percent before 90 Alkins made a layup to cut UA\u2019s lead to 17-15 with 10 minutes left in the half.

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Dejza James\u2019 day begins and ends at McKale Center.

Wednesday, it\u2019s by design.

James meets a visitor in front of the arena\u2019s ticket office at 7:40 a.m. The UA women\u2019s basketball player\u2019s next eight hours are a blur of classes, meetings, film work, practices and time \u2014 a lot of time \u2014 spent in the trainer\u2019s room.

The Star tagged along for the day. Here\u2019s what happened:

8 a.m.

James\u2019 first (and only) class of the day is public relations. She sits into the first row, next to two UA baseball players. The day\u2019s lecture topic is \u2014 sports organization and the media \u2014 is fitting, given James\u2019 role. The senior forward is averaging 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game heading into Friday\u2019s home game against UCLA.

James\u2019 next stop is the Ginny L. Clements Academic Center, across from McKale Center. James meets her academic counselor, Sarah Howard, every week. Howard oversees academics for the UA men\u2019s and women\u2019s basketball teams as well as the Wildcats\u2019 gymnastics, men\u2019s and women\u2019s cross country, and softball programs.

James, like most of the women\u2019s basketball team, gets ahead on her credits by taking summer classes. She needs just one class \u2014 PR \u2014 to graduate.

10 a.m.

Next stop is breakfast at Bear Down Kitchen. The Wildcats get one meal a day as part of their scholarship, and it\u2019s a breakfast buffet. Breakfast is a popular meal: As James eats, athletes from all sports sit at tables, talking and laughing.

A few weeks ago former UA swimmer and seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard spoke to the Wildcats\u2019 female athletes. The topic \u2014 dealing with stress \u2014 resonated.

\u201cWhen she shared hers, I thought \u2018I\u2019m not alone,\u2019\u201d James said. \u201cOther people have a hard time balancing. It\u2019s not just me \u2014 we are all struggling here. But, you get used to it. Now, we stay so busy and have no free time. It\u2019s almost scary to think about life without a schedule.\u201d

10:45 a.m.

It\u2019s time for treatment. James receives heat and electric stimulation \u2014 \u201cstim\u201d \u2014 on her feet. She suffered a season-ending stress fracture in her left foot last year. Her feet have been swelling lately, and James is tying to avoid future injury.

\u201cI\u2019m trying to last as long as I can and get through my senior year,\u201d said James.

UA guards Bria Rice and Taryn Griffey sit in the trainer\u2019s room, getting taped up for practice. Trainer Carisa Raucci calls the UA women \u201cthe closest team I have.\u201d

11 a.m.

James exits the training room and takes some extra shots before practice. Three-pointers are her focus: She\u2019s a 27.8 percent 3-point shooter this year. She\u2019s shooting better \u2014 41.2 percent \u2014 from the field.

The extra work has paid off. James scored a career-high 18 points and added eight rebounds against Oregon earlier this month. She came off the bench in last Friday\u2019s upset win over rival Arizona State and scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds \u2014 all in the first half.

Noon-3 p.m.

The Wildcats review film, run the length of the court a few times and work on offensive and defensive sets for Friday\u2019s game against UCLA.Wednesday\u2019s practice lasts about three hours, a bit shorter than usual.

Malena Washington, LaBrittney Jones, and coach Adia Barnes meet with the media when practice breaks up around 3 p.m. James heads back to the treatment room.

This time James uses the Nomatec machine. She zips each leg into what looks like ski pants. The Nomatec compresses the injury and prevents swelling.

James spends lots of time in the treatment room, and has learned to like \u2014 or at least appreciate \u2014 it.

\u201cI was a healthy soul when I first came in. I never sat out a game or practice. In fact, in high school I would do two practices a day,\u201d she said. \u201c(Now) I live in the treatment room. I never thought I\u2019d be broken down by the end of my senior year. Now I hang in here and say, \u2018What\u2019s next?\u2019

\u201cAt the end out day, you have to love what you do because it wears you out.\u201d

These days are running out. The Wildcats will play UCLA on Friday and USC on Sunday, and are guaranteed at least one game in the Pac-12 tournament. The UA is 13-14 this season; go 2-1, and it\u2019ll qualify for the NIT. The Wildcats haven\u2019t played in the postseason since 2011.

James isn\u2019t sure what she\u2019ll do after graduating in May. She\u2019d like to play basketball overseas, and may pursue a career on the business side of professional sports. She has thought about broadcasting, and has interest in pediatric radiology and sonography.

For now, James is enjoying her final few weeks as a Wildcat. There\u2019s a team dinner at coach Adia Barnes\u2019 house at 6 p.m., and there\u2019s homework to do. The senior will go to bed tired. She\u2019ll do it all again tomorrow.

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Oregon's Dillon Brooks loved seeing \"every single crowd member\" looking down after his game winner at Cal on Wednesday, and his shot was also a reminder to the Arizona Wildcats that there isn't much room for error if they want to win the Pac-12.

Since Oregon has just road games left at Stanford and Oregon State, that means Arizona will have to win out to win the Pac-12 outright and earn the Pac-12 Tournament's No. 1 seed unless the Ducks stumble in one of those two final games.

And maybe more so than in most years, getting the No. 1 seed for Arizona is significant because it would mean likely avoiding either Oregon or UCLA in the semifinals, since those two would probably be the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds if UA wins the No. 1 seed. But if UA and Oregon tie for the championship, the Ducks will earn the No. 1 seed based on their win over the Wildcats on Feb. 4.

Arizona's game with USC tonight will tip at 8 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks, with Ted Robinson and Steve Lavin.


Brooks' game-winner showed an eerie resemblance to not only his other-game winners this season but also the one of Oregon women's player Sabrina Ionescu -- who hit one from the same spot at Haas Pavilion.


USC may be the luckiest team in America... or maybe not. Certainly, Elijah Stewart has some issues with Kenpom's \"luck\" metric.

\u201cUnless Jesus runs that site, it\u2019s not very credible to me,\" Stewart said of Kenpom. \"If you\u2019re so good at telling the future, work for the government.\"

(Actually, Pomeroy did work for the government in weather forecasting...)


Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen has developed a taste for animal style at In-and-Out Burger, according to\u00a0this SI feature.


Adam Butler takes an\u00a0analytical look at Markkanen's\u00a0ups and downs.


Lonzo Ball's shot may look weird but a lot of folks have noticed that it goes in.


Maybe Ball is visiting his future home area tonight when UCLA plays at ASU. (7 p.m., ESPN2).


Far from being the \"rivals\" that the Pac-12 drew up when adding them, Colorado and Utah have become friendly, though they'll have to put it aside tonight at 9 p.m. (ESPNU).


Arizona Desert Swarm has a look at Emmanuel Akot, who will be among the visitors to Arizona this weekend.

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To encourage customer traffic and circulate his restaurant\u2019s name in the community, Spaghetti Company owner Mike Pulos offered a free spaghetti dinner to all 14,586 McKale Center fans if the Wildcats could complete a historic 1979 sweep of UCLA and USC.

To be safe, Pulos ordered 2,000 cases of pasta and scheduled double-shifts for his waiters. In January 1979, that was about $50,000 of giveaway spaghetti.

\u201cIt was our first year in the Pac-10, and it was really big to have UCLA and USC on our court,\u201d remembers 1980 Arizona all-conference guard Joe Nehls. \u201cI think everybody in town ate free spaghetti.\u201d

Only now, 38 years later, with the Trojans and Bruins a cumulative 45-9, is there a USC/UCLA weekend as appealing. In the Lute Olson years, USC and UCLA never arrived at McKale with more than 36 wins.

Rarely have the Trojans and the Bruins been good simultaneously, but in 1979 they were picked to finish 1-2 in the newly expanded Pac-10. UCLA was ranked No. 3 when it arrived in Tucson; the Trojans were ranked as high as No. 11 in the AP poll, and by the time they suited up at McKale, they had already played the nation\u2019s most difficult schedule, enduring road games at Duke, Maryland and Texas .

The Bruins came first, a Thursday night game attended by 14,606. Like many other teams of the era, Arizona had not beaten mighty UCLA since 1923.

No one could have expected a sweep, or even a split. The Wildcats were bludgeoned 116-80 at Oregon State five days earlier.

\u201cWe had been embarrassed,\u201d says Nehls, now a Tucson real estate broker. \u201cThey probably came in thinking they could walk all over us.\u201d

On the biggest platform in McKale history, Arizona beat UCLA 70-69 when reserve guard John Smith made a single free throw with six seconds remaining. He was engulfed by hundreds of celebrating fans who not only attempted to cut down the nets, but carried Smith and several of his teammates off the court.

When coach Fred Snowden arrived at work the next morning, his first of dozens of congratulatory phone calls was from U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, a 1959 UA grad.

\u201cIt\u2019s the biggest win of my career,\u201d said Snowden, who earlier stunned No. 3 UNLV in the 1976 Sweet 16. \u201cI\u2019ve never seen it like this here. It was the first time I\u2019d ever seen the crowd come onto the court and lift the players up on their shoulders.\u201d

Then came the promise of free spaghetti dinners if Arizona could complete the sweep on a Monday night against USC.

Another sellout crowd squeezed into the arena, at which Arizona had gone 82-7 since McKale opened in 1973. But most of those victories were against regional opponents from the Western Athletic Conference.

It was the Joe Nehls Show. The shooting guard from the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Illinois, scored 31 points, giving him 50 for the weekend. Arizona won 74-72, with two Nehls free throws providing the differential.

This time the crowd rushed the court with even more revelry. A small security force was overwhelmed; some fans got inside the UA locker room, embraced by Snowden and the players.

\u201cI don\u2019t think I\u2019ve ever seen that in back-to-back games anywhere,\u201d says Nehls, who is a UA season ticket-holder. \u201cWe didn\u2019t get to the postseason, not even the NIT, but that weekend was a highlight that can never be taken away from you. It was as loud as I can ever remember it at McKale.\u201d

Los Angeles Times basketball writer Mal Florence described his weekend in Tucson this way: \u201cI thought Oregon was bad, but this is the new Pit.\u201d

How did it happen? How did an Arizona team that finished 16-11 and tied for fourth in the Pac-10, sweep NCAA-bound UCLA and USC teams? The Wildcats shot a combined 57\u2009percent for the weekend.

The future NBA players from Los Angeles \u2014 UCLA\u2019s Kiki Vandeweghe, David Greenwood and Brad Holland and USC\u2019s Cliff Robinson \u2014 couldn\u2019t overcome what has grown to be the West Coast\u2019s leading game-day environment.

The USC-UCLA weekend has never been able to match the appeal and anticipation of the 1979 games. Over the last 30 LA weekends, Arizona is 50-10 against the Trojans and Bruins with 22 sweeps.

A few years ago, Nehls got a call from Arizona\u2019s 1979 point guard, Russell Brown, who scored a season-high 18 in the upset over UCLA. He asked if Nehls had video of either of the games, or an old tape.

\u201cUnfortunately, no,\u201d says Nehls. \u201cBut I\u2019d love to get my hands on one.\u201d

The old Spaghetti Company restaurant on South Alvernon Way closed in 1982. The spirit of \u201979 lives on.

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