LOS ANGELES, CA- After missing two games for a personal misconduct suspension, USC freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr. took the floor against Arizona with six minutes to play in the first half. On his first touch, Porter splashed a 3-point shot from the top of the key. In 17 minutes, he scored 14 points to spark USC’s offense and lead the Trojans to an 80-57 home win over Arizona.
— Blake Atwell (@blakeatwell5) January 25, 2019
“Kevin came in and played within the flow of the offense, played good defense and fit in perfectly,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “(He’s) been working on some of the things that were demanded of him and he’s been doing a good job, so we gave him the chance to play and his status will be evaluated on a daily basis.”
USC held Arizona to just 21.2 percent shooting throughout the first half and 27.8 percent (20-of-72) for the game.
“Tonight we played 40 minutes of zone, which I don’t know if I’ve ever done before as a coach,” Enfield said. Nick Rakocevic added, “Everybody’s playing with a lot of energy. We’re playing with our hands and feet, staying out of foul trouble and we’ve been really aggressive.”
Coming off a two-game stretch in which he earned Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Player of the Week honors, Rakocevic poured in 27 points and gobbled down 12 rebounds. Bennie Boatwright and Jonah Mathews each supplied 12 points.
Arizona senior forward Ryan Luther scored eight points. Brandon Randolph added 12 and Brandon Williams chipped in eight points for the Wildcats. Ira Lee contributed 12 points and seven boards. Arizona converted on just five of their 25 attempts from 3-point range (20 percent) and played without redshirt junior forward Chase Jeter, who missed the game with back stiffness.
“Even if Chase was playing and we were at full strength and playing great, beating SC on their home court is gonna be a tough deal,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.
With their first win over the Wildcats since 2016, the Trojans improve their overall record to 11-8 overall and 4-2 in conference, while Arizona falls to 14-6 and 5-2 against Pac-12 competition.
USC improves to 11-0 when collecting 16 or more assists, dishing out 19 against Arizona. The Trojans shot 50 percent from behind the arc, grabbed 51 rebounds and outscored Arizona 15-8 in fastbreak points.
“Tonight we did a good job of hitting the open man,” Enfield said. “We had good dribble penetration.”
Shaqquan Aaron threaded the needle, whipping a bounce pass to Rakocevic for an and-one basket at the rim. Rakocevic missed the foul shot, but USC led 47-28 with 12 minutes left. Porter and Mathews swished three consecutive left corner 3-pointers, as USC kept a 20-point advantage.
Derryck Thornton crossed Williams on the left wing and hit a 3 as time expired in the first half, keeping USC in front 36-19. In nine first-half minutes, Porter scored six points. Rakocevic led all scorers with 12.
The Trojans struck first, jumping out to a 17-6 lead. Porter stole the ball, but blew a dunk and followed that by missing inside for a second straight possession.
“I thought it was cool,” Rakocevic jokingly said of Porter’s missed dunk. “One of these games, I’m willing to bet he’s going to do something crazy or (dunk) it on someone’s head.”
Rakocevic scored 10 of USC’s first 25 points, as the Trojans held an 11-point advantage with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Porter blocked a Randolph floater attempt, but Justin Coleman scored to pull Arizona to within 12. Porter drove to the rim and scored plus a foul. Before he could shoot his free throw, Miller drew a technical foul from the bench. Boatwright shot 1-of-2 on the technicals, and Porter hit his foul shot.
“We wanted this one tonight,” Rakocevic said. “We really got the momentum going now, it’s finally sunk in on what needs to be done to continue winning games.”
Next up for USC is a date with Arizona State at Galen Center. The Sun Devils are led by freshman Luguentz Dort, who averages 16.4 points per contest.
Miller said, “Part of (the loss) was (Boatwright) and (Rakocevic) are really good players. You know, they remind me, kind of, of what we had, in the last six-seven years. They have a good one-two punch in there, they can score inside, outside, they can pass.”
Despite the loss, Arizona has won seven of nine and conclude their Southern California road trip with a visit to UCLA on Saturday (Jan. 26).