Solid second half gives UA win over USC

It wasn't the rout many anticipated, but Arizona held serve at home and improved to 3-1 in Pac-10 play with a 77-68 win over USC.

Arizona's penetration problems, brought to the surface in the Stanford loss, played a role early. Most notably, Mustafa Shakur struggled with SC's ability to get into the lane. Kirk Walters was pulled from his redshirt to give the UA more depth on the inside, and checked in early, and was instantly indoctrinated by a Greg Guenther jumper as USC led early 6-4.

"I found out this afternoon," said Walters. "Coach O just said he thought I was ready, and that a little more depth in the post would help us out a lot."

Walters ended the game with only one rebound, but he played 12 quality minutes and it was seen how his contributions reach beyond scoring and rebounding. Arizona went on an 8-3 run when Walters entered the game.

"We've been toying with this decision the past three weeks," Olson explained. "He's been playing so well in practice situations and it'll take him a little while to get his game legs. He's been the most consistent next to Channing."

Arizona's pressure was successful in a number of easy buckets, but USC answered with strong efforts in its halfcourt offense as the game remained tight throughout much of the middle portion of the half.

Rodgers aided in two Wildcat buckets. He kissed a deep two off the glass and added a steal and layup that the UA a short-lived 28-25 advantage, and Salim Stoudamire added his fourth three of the half to build a four-point lead. Freshman Nick Young's 12th point of the half kept Troy in touch.

"Chris Rodgers gave us a huge lift off the bench," said Olson. "Like I said to him, 'its not about whether you start or not its about whether you finish.' He played 32 minutes for us and played very well."

Rodgers had a career high 22 points on the night and was easily the player of the game. Stoudamire also had a good night contributing 21 points and 3 assists.

"I had a talk with Salim yesterday," Olson said. "I told him, 'Yeah we want the extra pass, but if you're open, I don't want to see a pass. I want you to shoot the ball. You're the best shooter in the country and it doesn't make sense to be open for a shot and give it up to a 34% shooter when you're a 59% shooter.'"

Freshman Gabriel Pruitt converted a four-point play that put USC on top 33-31, but Rodgers responded with a three of his own to put the UA up 34-33 with three minutes left in the half.

Hassan Adams' 1,000th career point, and 11th of the night helped to cap a three-point play that gave the UA a four-point lead. USC answered, but Stoudamire converted a bucket that placed the margin at 39-35 late in the half. Rory O'Neill's traditional three-point against a helter skelter Wildcat defense trimmed the lead to one, but Rodgers buried another UA three. USC's 12th turnover of the half gave Arizona one final opportunity, which it couldn't convert, and Arizona led 42-38 at the break.

"[If I were to grade the team's performance] the first half I would say would be a D," explained Olson. "The second half I think we probably earned a C+."

USC shot 57 percent for the half, but that didn't carry over. Arizona successfully stopped Southern Cal's ability to get to the lane, and cranked up the offensive intensity when it rattled off six straight points. As a result, USC went from a manageable four-point deficit to a quick 10-point hole.

Arizona appeared in control, and then went into an offensive drought that covered more than six minutes. Fortunately for the UA, USC wasn't much better, but an O'Neill fastbreak layup trimmed the Wildcat advantage to 52-49. A Rodgers bucket on a Frye assist finally ended the dry spell with 10 minutes to go, and then Stoudamire brought the house down on an explosive dunk where Stoudamire took flight from 10 feet away from the basket.

Arizona appeared ready to blow the game open again, but an O'Neil three stopped the bleeding momentarily and cut the UA lead to 59-52 with nine minutes to go. USC got the lead to four at 64-60, but that was as close as it could get.

Rodgers drained a three and a bucket in the lane off an offensive rebound that gave Arizona a 12-point advantage at 72-60. Rodgers scored a career-high 22 points.

"They (Rodgers and Stoudamire) have been out two best perimeter guys in practice," said Olson.

The Trojans shot 50 percent from the floor, but turned the ball over more than 20 times, which led to 30 Wildcat points. Arizona shot 44.8% from the field.

"We ended up with 15 extra possessions which will make up for the shooting percentage," Olson said. "I'm still not happy about that."

Arizona hosts UCLA Saturday at 1pm. The Bruins ousted ASU in Tempe Thursday night.

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