by Mike Stewart
Arizona’s bid for at least an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament continues with a home game against last-place USC Trojans , which is one loss away from tying the school record of 22 losses set in 1988-89.
The Trojans lost 57-46 to Arizona on Jan. 8, and the Wildcats’ defense has only improved over the past month.
Arizona Wildcats is allowing 61.7 points in Pac-12 play, while the Trojans are scoring a conference-worst 51.5 points per game. Southern California is 1-14 in its last 15 games.
USC Trojans (6-21): The Trojans are down to six scholarship players and ranked last in most Pac-12 statistical categories. Maurice Jones is the only player averaging double figures in points at 13.7, while Byron Wesley leads all active players with 4.9 rebounds per game. The team is taking care of the basketball, however. Southern California had nine or less turnovers in 10 of its last 12 games and ranks first in the Pac-12 with a plus-4.6 turnover margin. Forward Garrett Jackson is averaging 11.2 points in his last nine games, and guard Greg Allen is averaging 10.2 points in his last six. The Trojans shot only 29 percent and scored 16 points in the first half in their first meeting with the Wildcats.
Arizona Wildcats (19-9): The Wildcats had their five-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 79-70 loss at Washington, dropping them two games out of first place with three to play. Point guard Jordin Mayes will likely miss his sixth straight game because of a stress reaction in his right foot. Mayes, who is averaging 5.5 points and 18.2 minutes per game, could return for Saturday’s home finale against UCLA. Forward Solomon Hill, who’s averaging 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds during the past four games, posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds against the Trojans in January, while Jesse Perry scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half.
1. Arizona has won 20 of the last 30 meetings in the series, and the Wildcats are 30-10 in series games played in Tucson.
2. The Trojans’ rebounding margin of minus-13.6 in Pac-12 play is the worst in the conference. Arizona is seventh at plus-2.1.
3. Southern California is in danger of matching the modern school record for fewest victories, set by the 1976-77 team that finished 6-20.
NCAA BASKETBALL PREDICTION: Wildcats 63, Trojans 51.
arizona wildcats - byron wesley - garrett jackson - greg allen - jesse perry - jordin mayes - maurice jones - mckale center - solomon hill - usc trojans