Southern Cal drops Arizona in conference showdown

Southern Cal drops Arizona in conference showdown
Arizona head coach Sean Miller. (Source: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

LOS ANGELES -- Jonah Mathews scored 14 points and Onyeka Okongwu recorded his 11th double double of the season — 11 points and 10 rebounds — as USC defeated Arizona, 57-48, on Thursday night.

The victory over the Wildcats, who are No. 7 in the NET rankings, gave the Trojans (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12) a much-needed quality win against a Quadrant 1 team to boost their NCAA Tournament chances.

The win also helped USC remain in contention for a top-four seed needed for a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

"It's do or die," said Mathews, who is one of USC's two senior captains. "I don't have another year. Every rebound, every shot, everything matters. It's crunch time before March Madness."

USC held Arizona, the Pac-12's highest scoring team, to its lowest point total of the season. The Wildcats (19-8, 9-5 Pac-12) shot just 16-of-57 from the field (28.1%) and were only 3-of-26 (11.5%) from the 3-point line.

Okongwu finished the game with four blocks. Ethan Anderson had a season-high three steals and helped contain Arizona star point guard Nico Mannion to just 3-for-14 from the field.

"We tried to challenge everything," said USC coach Andy Enfield. "Coach [Jason] Hart had a great game plan. We executed and challenged everything. We took away the inside game."

It was a balanced scoring affair for the Trojans, who also saw contributions from Anderson (seven points), Daniel Utomi (nine points), Isaiah Mobley (eight points) and Elijah Weaver (eight points).

Zeke Nnaji had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats.

TURNING POINT

With time expiring in the first half, Okongwu hit a long shot from the opposite 3-point line at the buzzer to give the Trojans a 26-21 advantage at halftime.

The game was tightly contested prior to the shot, but Okongwu’s prayer gave USC momentum heading into the second half. It helped build a lead that the Trojans wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game, though USC fought off a late Arizona charge that brought the Wildcats within three points with 3:53 left.

National media outlets quickly made Okongwu's first collegiate 3-pointer viral.

"I always work on shots after practice," Okongwu said. "I took that shot and it went in. I didn't imagine it would, but I'll take it."

OTHER NOTES

  • Nick Rakocevic played 11 minutes due to being in foul trouble. Enfield said in a postgame radio interview that the senior center lost ten pounds after getting sick during last week's road trip.
  • Freshman guard Kyle Sturdivant (bereavement) missed his fifth consecutive game.
  • Arizona guard Josh Green (back) did not play. The freshman guard averages 11.9 points per game for the Wildcats.
  • Forty NBA scouts were credentialed for Thursday’s game. Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers were among the pro executives in attendance.