USC hapless against Wildcats' D

2013-01-27T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:33:46Z USC hapless against Wildcats' DPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Through 37 1/2 minutes Saturday, USC had made 13 field goals on 58 attempts.

That's a 22.4 percent clip - statistically, somewhere between shooting a free throw with your eyes closed and asking the guy in the front row to launch a shot from his padded seat.

How bad is 22.4 percent? The worst-shooting team in America, the appropriately named Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State, hit 35.8 percent of their shots on the year heading into Saturday's games.

One hundred Division I-A teams hit more than 44.8 percent of their shots - twice the clip that tortured the Trojans through most of a 74-50 loss to the Arizona Wildcats at McKale Center.

Interim coach Bob Cantu listed the reasons why the Wildcats stymied his Trojans.

"Their defense was exceptional," he said. "I mean, they were very physical and aggressive. We weren't able to get what we did against other teams. They denied us at the high post.

"We couldn't into our offense, and they pushed us out.

"They did a good job of getting back on defense, too.

"We weren't able to convert."

The Trojans finished the game on a 5-of-6 run, though, pushing their final field-goal mark to 28.1 percent against the UA's third-team unit consisting of Gabe York and walk-ons.

Still, the final total was satisfying to the UA.

In times of struggle, coach Sean Miller has always stressed defense.

After Thursday's loss to UCLA - in which the Bruins made one more field goal in the first half alone than the Trojans' 18 in Saturday's game - the coach preached hard work.

"It is always the focus," he said. "Once in a while, when you lose, all of a sudden, it's really the focus. Not just for me, or our staff, but for everybody.

"That's why it's so difficult to win every game. When you lose, what you hope is you learn from it."

The Wildcats were consistently dominant.

At the time of USC's first garbage-time bucket with 2 1/2 minutes to play, the UA had watched the Trojans go 7 for 29 in the first half and 6 for 29 in the second.

"When someone makes a hard play on the ball or something like that, it really kinda brings a spark to the team," said center Kaleb Tarczewski, who had 10 points, seven rebounds and one steal. "If someone gets a blocked shot. Even on offense, if someone gets a dunk, that stuff really kinda brings life to the team.

"We really focus on that."

USC coughed up 16 turnovers to the UA, which was lead by Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson's two steals apiece.

Miller said stingy defense is a formula not just to win, but to win NCAA tournament games.

"We were ready to defend," Miller said. "Why we were 12-0 before this conference season began is, we were ready to defend some very good teams.

"As our offense grows and improves, you could see us becoming a very good team. If we pick and choose defensively, or if that's not in place, I think we're also very vulnerable in many areas.

"So it starts with that consistent, tough-minded defense.

"The more we're better on that side of the ball, it's easier to improve on offense."

The Trojans aren't pushovers, despite Saturday's performance. In three games under Cantu, before the UA debacle, USC had averaged 78.7 points.

But it looked clearly frustrated, starting early Saturday.

"When somebody is really pressuring you, it's kinda hard to create space for a shot," said UA forward Brandon Ashley. "So I think when you've got someone off-balance or something like that, it's harder for them to score.

"And they kind of wanna relax, or sit back."

Guard J.T. Terrell, who made only 1 of 7 shots, said the Trojans "missed some easy shots, couldn't get shots to fall where we wanted, and we had turnovers here and there."

A combination that played to the Wildcats' strengths.

"They came out," Cantu said, "and got what they needed."

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Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 8 1 0 0.889 20 2 0 0.909
Utah 6 2 0 0.750 16 4 0 0.800
Stanford 6 3 0 0.667 15 6 0 0.714
Oregon 5 4 0 0.556 15 7 0 0.682
Oregon State 5 4 0 0.556 13 7 0 0.650
Colorado 4 4 0 0.500 11 8 0 0.579
UCLA 4 4 0 0.500 12 9 0 0.571
Washington State 4 5 0 0.444 10 11 0 0.476
Washington 3 5 0 0.375 14 6 0 0.700
Arizona State 3 6 0 0.333 12 11 0 0.522
California 2 6 0 0.250 12 9 0 0.571
USC 1 7 0 0.125 9 11 0 0.450

AP Top 25

Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Oregon at
Arizona State
1/30 68-67
Oregon State at
1/30 34-57
Stanford at
Washington State
1/31 88-89
Colorado at
1/31 88-89
Utah at
2/1 12:30 pm
California at
2/1 1:00 pm
Washington at
2/4 7:00 pm
2/5 7:00 pm
Washington State at
Oregon State
2/5 8:00 pm
USC at
2/5 9:00 pm
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