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Turnovers doom USC in 73-53 loss to No. 1 Arizona
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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Turnovers and other miscues doomed Southern California’s chances of repeating its recent success against Arizona when the Wildcats are ranked.
Brandon Ashley and T.J. McConnell each scored a season-high 19 points and the No. 1 Wildcats beat Southern Cal 73-53 Sunday night to improve to 17-0 for the best start in school history.
The Trojans had won four of the last six meetings with Arizona when it was ranked. That success didn’t mean much when USC (9-7, 0-3 Pac-12) was held to a season-low in points, got to the free throw line only eight times and committed 18 turnovers.
“We definitely turned the ball over too many times and had too many possessions where we didn’t score,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. “Against a good team like Arizona, you have to convert.”
Byron Wesley scored 18 points and reserve Strahinja Gavrilovic added a career-high 10 points to lead USC, which has lost three straight and four of its last six.
The Trojans stayed close most of the game and trailed 48-43 with nine minutes remaining, but Arizona outscored the USC 25-10 the rest of the way to turn the close game into a rout and improve to 4-0 in conference play.
“We had chances to make plays and we didn’t in transition,” USC guard Pe’Shon Howard said. “We have to put together a 40-minute game. Tonight we probably did 30 minutes. There are a lot of positives to take from this. We battled the No. 1 team in the country.”
Arizona never trailed in the second half to secure win number 17, breaking the previous school record for best start of 16-0 set by the 1931-32 Wildcats.
“We’re really excited about it, we really are,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We talked about it and it’s something I think all of us will really cherish. Any school record you break at Arizona in the basketball program is a real record because of the great tradition that we have.”
Nick Johnson chipped in 15 points and Aaron Gordon had 12 for the Wildcats in the second straight game they’ve had four players reach double figures in scoring.
Arizona didn’t outrebound its opponent for the first time this season, with each team getting 30 boards apiece. But the Wildcats shot 46.6 percent (27 of 58) from the field, including 50 percent in the second half, to pick up the victory.
Ashley shot 7 of 10 from the field and McConnell was 7 of 12, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range, to pace the Wildcats.
“Usually I try to set up the offense and get other people the ball, but tonight they were playing off me and I just hit shots,” said McConnell, who also had six assists. “If they don’t think I can shoot I’m going to try and prove them wrong, and if they close out I’ll go around them and get other people the ball.”
Arizona completed its first road sweep of the conference’s Los Angeles schools since 2004-05, having beaten UCLA 79-75 Thursday night.
USC was playing its first game against a No. 1 ranked team since February 2004, when they fell to Stanford 76-67. The Trojans’ last victory over a top-ranked team came nearly 44 years ago when they beat UCLA 87-86 on March 6, 1970.
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