LOS ANGELES – The Arizona Wildcats are now officially off to the best start in program history.
Though they struggled at times before a low-energy crowd at the Galen Center and against USC’s zone defense, the Wildcats pulled out a 73-53 win that moved them to 17-0 overall.
T.J. McConnell led UA offensively with a season-high 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting while Brandon Ashley added another 19 points. Their performances helped offset struggles by center Kaleb Tarczewski (two points) and Gabe York, who scored missed all three three-pointers he took.
Arizona’s previously longest unbeaten start was 16-0 in 1931-32, when a pair of wins each over Dixie Junior College and a UA alumni team counted toward the total.
The win also moved the Wildcats to 4-0 in Pac-12 Conference play entering a home game Thursday against ASU. USC dropped to 9-8 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-12.
UA trailed by four points in the first half but pulled ahead 34-31 at halftime and gradually built its lead into the teens as the second half went on.
In the first half, Arizona trailed by four points to USC before pulling out a 34-31 halftime lead thanks to the shooting of McConnell and Ashley.
Taking shots the Trojans’ zone defense gave him, McConnell scored 11 points and a season-high three three-pointers in the first half. Ashley had 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
After J.T. Terrell drove inside to give USC a 27-23 lead with just under six minutes left, McConnell came back with his final three of the half to cut it to one point.
Both teams shot 43 percent from the field in the first half and 40 percent from three-point range. UA outrebounded the Trojans 17-15 but had just 12 points in the paint while USC had 22.
Arizona went up 6-2 early but struggled offensively in the nearly lifeless Galen Center, sometimes against a USC zone defense. It was only the second time this season that the Wildcats have played in front of a four-figure crowd, having struggled against Drexel in New York City before 8,742 fans.
The Wildcats were up 16-10 after McConnell hit a three-pointer and a 15-footer but the Trojans quickly tied it at 16 on three-pointers from Julian Jacobs and Strahinja Gavrilovic.
They later went ahead 21-18 when Byron Wesley converted a thre-point play with eight minutes left, though McConnell tied it at 23 with a three-pointer from the top of the key.