Evan Mobley scored 23 points, Tahj Eaddy added 14 of his own but it was not enough as the Trojans struggled to find a consistent rhythm as they fell to Arizona 81-72 at the Galen Center on Saturday afternoon.
The loss snaps a seven-game winning streak for USC who had won 13 of their last 14 heading into the matchup. The Trojans struggled through much of Saturday’s game shooting only 42% from the field, and going 7 of 20 from three. Some of the woeful moments came from the free-throw line where USC shot a measly 13-22 (59%) for the game.
Throughout the game, the Trojans could not match up to the Wildcats’ physical presence. When USC was closing the edge, Arizona would come right back and break the game open. On the day, the men of Troy were also outrebounded 43-36 as well as giving the Wildcats 17 second chance opportunities.
“There’s a certain mentality you have to have in both halves against a team as talented and physical as Arizona,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “We played harder in the second half, but for us to only draw three team fouls in the first half, it just means we weren’t aggressive enough and they had a lot of offensive rebounds. We have to learn to come out and be more physical from the opening.”
After a lackluster first half that saw only 31 points, standout freshman Evan Mobley was able to settle into the game after the break scoring 10 straight to open the second half scoring.
“I knew I had to come out and be aggressive in order for us to win and I tried to do that in the second half,” Mobley said. “I feel like they slipped on [guarding me] for a little bit because Tahj started heating up and other players were hitting shots. So I opened the floor for me to get easier buckets.”
Defensively, USC had a hard time controlling the game, allowing the Wildcats to capitalize early and often. Junior James Akinjo put up 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting, while Jordan Brown and Azouelas Tubelis both posted double-double performances.
With five games left in the regular season there is no margin of error for USC, they may have given up leverage but it is still their conference title race to lose.
The Trojans have to regroup and turn the page and get back to their winning ways as they welcome the Oregon Ducks to Galen Center on Monday night who like the Trojans, own three conference losses. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m.
Featured image: USC guard Ethan Anderson (20) is locked in defensively against Arizona’s James Akinjo (13) during a Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball game played at Galen Center on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline