Arizona improved to 21-5 on the season and jumped into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with a 86-80 win against USC. Here's a closer look at what happened:
Player of the Game:
Mark Tollefsen - The senior transfer came off the bench and made an impact in the first half, helping the Wildcats pull away from the Trojans. Tollefsen finished the night with 13 points, scoring 11 before halftime. The forward also pulled down 6 rebounds, blocked a shot, and had an assist in the game. Although he did not produce many points in the second half, he played solid defense down the stretch, often subbing in defense-for-offense with Ryan Anderson.
* Arizona attacked the rim early and often against USC. Just nine minutes into the game, Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Dusan Ristic had already combined for 19 points and seven rebounds. A wide open dunk by Ristic forced the Trojans to call a timeout with the Wildcats leading 26-18.
* With six minutes left before halftime, Parker Jackson-Cartwright stepped into a three-pointer at the top of the key and drilled it. The shot gave Arizona a 14-point lead and a few possessions later Kadeem Allen scored in the paint and the Wildcats led 38-22.
* USC came out pushing the tempo in the second half, battling back and cutting Arizona's lead down to two with under seven minutes to go in the game. Arizona countered to get back on track with free throws from Ristic and Tarczewski before Allonzo Trier hit a three pointer with five minutes left in the game to put his team up 77-69.
Stat of the Game:
9 - USC was able to battle back in the second half and cut Arizona's lead down from 19 to two, pulling within a basket with six minutes to go. After the close call, the Wildcats clamped down on defense and forced the Trojans to miss nine consecutive shots as Arizona built up a ten-point lead. The stretch was ended by a Bennie Boatwright three, but it was already too late for USC.
"Our first half was excellent basketball," Miller said, "but we're trying to put both halves together and we have just not been that team this season. We have to eventually become that team because when we get in those elimination moments -- you lose and you go home -- we're going to go home."
"We expect ourselves to be at the top and competing for the title," Anderson said. "This is what we have done the last couple of years, this is what we plan to do this year."null