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January 12, 2014

Strong start not enough for 'SC




It wasn't as bad as many expected.

At times against the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats, it was actually going quite well for USC. They held a 27-26 lead with just over 4 minutes remaining in the first half and made the game competitive for quite some time.

But it wasn't nearly enough.

Despite a close score at halftime, Arizona eventually won the game by a wide margin. Four Wildcats scored in double figures, including Brandon Ashley and T.J. McConnell, who had 19 each.

Those offensive numbers, along with fantastic defense helped the Wildcats capture a 73-53 victory.

"Arizona made plays," senior guard Pe'Shon Howard said. "We had chances to make plays and we didn't in transition. Our effort was there. You saw lots of improvement. It's only the third game of the Pac-12. Arizona is a great team, No.1 in the country. We had to put together a 40 minute game. Tonight we probably did 30 minutes."

Effort wasn't an issue but turnovers killed the Trojans. At halftime, in a three-point game, USC only turned it over six times. But by the end of the night, the Trojans had 18 turnovers.

And the Wildcats took advantage. 23 of their points came after USC gave the ball right back to them.

"Arizona played an excellent second half," head coach Andy Enfield said. "We turned the ball over too many times. We had some easy transition opportunities that we didn't convert. We missed a couple of lay ups. Against a defensive team like Arizona, you have to score when you get the chance."

Enfield hopes that his team can keep the turnovers limited in future games.

"…Our guards have to do a much better job of executing and making the right pass at the right time," Enfield said. "Eighteen turnovers is too many. We had six in the first half, which is excellent, about where it should be. 12 or 13 turnovers is a reasonable number. We just made too many. Nikola (Jovanovic) had five turnovers tonight so we need to work on that. It's a skill set for a variety of players. They need to get better at that."

That doesn't mean that the entire night was lost. The head coach was proud of the heart his team showed.

"I thought we played very hard," Enfield said. "I'm proud of my team's effort. I thought Arizona wore us down in the second half. Some of our guards played a lot of minutes. That's credit to them. They come in waves, they're athletic and you have to extend a lot of energy to guard them and also to try and score. I'm very proud of our effort. I thought when cut it to five mid way through the second half, we had a chance to stay in the game at that point."

If USC continues to play with that type of effort, Enfield believes they can compete in the Pac-12.

"…We'll work on our strengths and weaknesses," Enfield said. "We have fifteen more league games to go. If we give this type of effort and energy, I think we'll be fine."

The USC coach was also proud of the fans. Over 8,300 fans were in attendance.

"It's great," Enfield said. "It's a lot of fun to play in this type of atmosphere. Hopefully we keep getting better and better and have crowds like this. We're very thankful for the crowd that came out and supported us. It's on our players. They're doing a great job of playing hard. My message to them is that win or lose, you have to give that effort. The fans came out to see you and the way to show your appreciation is to basically play hard. We want to win every game but when we don't, the fans need to leave saying that they want to see you again because of the effort you gave."

Among those in attendance were a few recruits. Etiwanda point guard Jordan McLaughlin and fellow 2014 USC commit, Long Beach Millikan forward Malik Marquetti were there. Chimezi Metu and Chance Comanche were also in attendance.

Notes

USC is now 9-7 overall and 0-3 in league play. Arizona is 17-0 and 4-0 in league play.

Tonight's game was the first time USC faced a number one ranked team since the 2004 season (Stanford, L 76-67). The last time USC played a number one ranked Arizona team was in 2003 (L, 86-59)

USC is now 4-3 against ranked Arizona teams in the last seven meetings

The last time USC started conference play at 0-3 was in 2012. The Trojans lost their first eight conference games that season.

The 53 points that USC scored was a season low. The previous season low was 60 against Arizona State.

Strahinja Gavrilovic had a personal best in terms of points scored. he had 10. His previous high was 5 points against UCLA earlier this month.

Arizona's T.J. McConnell was 5 for 7 from beyond the three-point line tonight. He was 8 for 30 on the season before tonight's game.

USC's eight free throw attempts was a season low.

Byron Wesley continues to have a strong season. He had 18 points (7-14 shooting), 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

The Trojans next game will be on Jan. 16. They'll play at Utah.



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