A look back: Arizona vs. USC

Arizona lost to USC on Wednesday night for numerous reasons. Read on for a closer analysis of what went wrong and what the Wildcats need to fix.

Wednesday night was tough for fans of the Arizona basketball program. The Wildcats' faithful have endured frustration at times this season, but the team's recent performance against a much weaker USC squad has much of the fan-base concerned. Essentially needing to avoid an upset, UA came through with one of its more lackluster performances this season.

It wasn't a good game for the Wildcats offensively or defensively. They looked a step behind the Trojans' offense on nearly every play and USC continued to build confidence as each minute passed.

Every time the Wildcats would make a run, Southern Cal was there with an answer and then some. A loss like this should serve as a wake-up call for Arizona and with two games left in the regular season, there is very little margin for error.

The same problems surfaced once again and the Wildcats were exposed by a much less talented Trojans team. There was plenty of blame to go around and they will have to right the ship quickly or those same issues will continue to disrupt the Wildcats' ultimate goal: a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Lyons' struggles

Mark Lyons went 1-for-9 from the floor (12 of his 14 points came from the foul line) and he only dished out two assists. It looked as if Lyons lost confidence in his shot as the game progressed and he found it difficult to locate open looks.

To Lyons' credit, he did a great job of drawing contact and going to the free throw line, but his field goal shooting really set the rest of the offense back.

Lyons has the tools to lead Arizona. He may not be a true point guard, but his scoring output is generally needed for Arizona to win games. His recent poor shooting has made his teammates' job more difficult and the offense has struggled in the process.

Have you seen Nick Johnson?

Just two games prior, it looked as if Johnson had emerged from his slump, but he followed that up with two single-digit scoring efforts. The sophomore had been one of the Wildcats' most reliable scorers until recently and his misfortunes have hindered the team as much as Lyons', if not more.

Johnson seems to be struggling much in the way he did down the stretch of his freshman season. His jump-shot isn't falling and he is blending in with the offense rather than asserting himself.

At the end of the 2011-12 season, Johnson played in a similar fashion and it prevented him from reaching double-figures in nine of the last 11 games. The Wildcats need their starting sophomore guard to fix his mistakes or they are going to continue to struggle on both ends of the floor.

Lack of motion on offense

It can be difficult to quantify Arizona's habit of standing still on the offensive end of the floor. At times, one player will decide to take on the entire defense, while his four teammates turn into spectators until that player decides to shoot or is forced into making a tough pass. Whether it's Lyons, Johnson, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom or any other UA wing or guard, the Wildcats' offense far too often consists of one-on-five basketball.

Arizona is not only at its best when it can run up and down the floor, but it also plays much better offensively when everyone is moving and assisting teammates when they are in a jam.

Not having a true point guard is what can lead to shortcomings in this area, but there have been times where players either refuse or neglect to put themselves in better position on the offensive end of the floor.

One indicator of Arizona's poor offensive movement is its sub par field goal percentage and poor shooting display from the outside. The Wildcats shot 23 three-pointers – knocking down just seven – and connected on just 40 percent of their field goal attempts throughout the entire contest. The lack of motion and ball movement forced them into long, drawn-out possessions that led to not-so-good looks at the basket.

Where's the defense?

Defense has been a strength for Arizona more often than not this season, but what's alarming is that Wednesday's performance by USC wasn't the first time recently that an opponent has played lights out on the offensive end of the floor.

Whether the problems are mostly due to Arizona's defensive effort or unconscious shooting from the opposition is for the individual observer to decide, but the more it happens, the more it looks like a trend.

The lack of early-game intensity

Throughout much of the season, including non-conference play, Arizona has been a squad that tends to take a while to get warmed up in a game. Early in the season, UA eventually woke up in those games and overtook the opposition. As teams have learned to play Arizona, however, it has become more difficult for the Wildcats to overcome their slow starts.

It's been happening more lately and as the competition becomes stronger, the difficulty level rises dramatically when a team falls behind big in the early moments of the contest.

They must get out of the gate quickly and come out with fire rather than having the fire forced out of them by falling in a hole in the first half.

If the intensity level picks up in the first few minutes of the game, the Wildcats put themselves in a much more comfortable position for the rest of it.

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