Soon after 3 months of slender, nail-biting escapes and harrowing, keep-your-breath finishes, USC ultimately tangled by itself into a knot it could not untie.
It’d been forced to contort a lot en route to a report 25 victories this year. But there would be no these kinds of late escape this time, not with Arizona tightening its grip on a Pac-12 title every single prospect it acquired till the Trojans could breathe no a lot more, collapsing in their most lopsided loss of the year, 91-71.
By that level, a sellout Galen Heart crowd dressed in all white was currently walking dejectedly out of the building, hardly building a fuss as Arizona celebrated on your own on the courtroom, surrounded by cameras.
“It was disheartening,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “I know our players are disappointed. They did not have their very best video games.”
Tuesday’s rescheduled assembly was intended to be USC’s opportunity to announce alone as a significant contender. With their arena packed, a six-game win streak in tow and a nationwide audience observing, the Trojans seemed primed to press the Wildcats at the start off of their gantlet end to the season. Now, UCLA awaits on Saturday, with a prospect to steal second location from USC, which has gained five in a row about its crosstown rivals.
Alternatively, the Trojans were operate off the courtroom Tuesday in their remaining household sport of the season, falling guiding at just one point by 30. With March looming, their resume continue to is composed of just a person ranked gain.
They’d stored it shut the first time in Tucson, keeping a 6-issue guide above Arizona until the last 6 minutes, when their offense came apart from the perimeter. USC completed that activity lacking 14 of its previous 15 photographs in what felt, at the time, like a fluky finish for a workforce that was so sturdy down the remaining extend of video games.
As it turns out, that early February complete was additional like an omen, the warnings of which were on screen over the Trojans’ six-activity gain streak considering that. As USC escaped one Pac-12 opponent following another, enduring major scares from lesser teams these as Pacific, Washington Condition and Oregon Condition.
This time, USC would under no circumstances get near more than enough to even contemplate escaping Arizona. Not as it held USC’s playmakers in check out, as Drew Peterson shot a paltry two for 11 from the industry for 10 details. Max Agbonkpolo led the way for the Trojans, scoring 14.
“Our 3 leading scores started out out 3 for 22 from the field,” Enfield mentioned. “You’re not going to acquire actively playing like that.”
Arizona burst out of the gate like a crew intent on erasing any question about the fate of the Pac-12 title race. Its defense clogged passing lanes, forcing five early USC turnovers. Its higher-traveling offense soared in transition, slamming dwelling dunk soon after dunk, knocking down trailing three-pointer right after trailing three-pointer, and quickly quieting the group, which was remaining in a surprised stupor just before the first media timeout experienced even arrived.
“They acquired off to a superior start,” Mobley mentioned. “We just did not make shots.”
By then, the now-slim chances of USC sticking in the title discussion were slipping away just as quickly. Absolutely nothing was falling from three-position vary. Tiny was functioning somewhere else, either. Peterson, on a tear over the Trojans’ 6-recreation acquire streak, couldn’t get a shot to slide, lacking 5 of six in the to start with fifty percent. Mobley could not do a great deal greater, scoring 6 whilst failing to file a single guide.
As the Wildcats extended their guide to 16, Enfield known as a timeout, determined to reverse the Trojans’ fortunes. Instead, they instantly turned the ball above, giving way to a streaking Justin Kier, who slammed household a one-handed dunk.
The spotlight reel hardly slowed from there. There ended up far more dunks and far more a few-tips. Bennedict Mathurin, the Wildcats’ star wing, even threw a no-appear go powering his head in the lane for a streaking slam, adding insult to personal injury and an assist to an presently sparkling stat line. He’d finish with 19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 helps and 3 steals.
A handful of minutes later on, USC headed to the locker area at halftime possessing given up 51 details, the most it’s allowed all year.
It did not get considerably greater right after the half. As the Wildcats settled into cruise regulate, USC would slice the direct to 16, but that was as shut it would get to escaping Arizona’s grasp.
Afterward, Enfield was asked irrespective of whether he could discover any positives in the Trojans’ trouncing.
“Not too a lot of,” Enfield claimed, right before reconsidering.
“The fans were being fantastic,” he explained. “The DJ was excellent.”