Top-seeded Arizona takes down USC in Pac-12 tourney

Mar 14, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Caleb Love (2) and Southern California Trojans guard Bronny James (6) battle for the ball in the first half at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — Oumar Ballo had a double-double, KJ Lewis scored a team-high 15 points off the bench and No. 6 Arizona put on an impressive defensive display in a 70-49 victory over Southern California in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal game on Thursday.

Arizona (25-7) is known for its go-go offense but showed the kind of defense that is emblematic of successful postseason basketball, holding the ninth-seeded Trojans (15-18) to 16 first-half points and 35.7 percent shooting for the game.

The top-seeded Wildcats, who held USC to its lowest point total of the season and forced 18 turnovers, will play Friday against the winner of the Oregon-UCLA quarterfinal game.

Ballo had 10 points and 13 rebounds for his 10th double-double in the past 11 games. Jaden Bradley scored 12, Caleb Love added 11, and Pelle Larsson had 10.

Kobe Johnson led the Trojans with 14 points, and Isaiah Collier contributed 13. Boogie Ellis, who was averaging a team-high 16.9 points, shot 2 of 11 from the field and finished with six points before fouling out with 7:25 to go.

The Wildcats avenged a 78-65 loss at USC on Saturday and improved to 18-0 after a loss in the three-year tenure of coach Tommy Lloyd, who is 86-18 at Arizona.

The game was a high-effort, high-intensity affair from the beginning, with defense ruling most of the first half. Arizona held a small lead for most of the period but finished on a 9-0 run to go up by 28-16 at the break.

Each team committed nine turnovers in the half, with USC shooting only 23.3 percent (7 of 30).

Arizona expanded its 12-point halftime lead, going up 44-24 after a three-point play by Lewis with 13:14 to go. The Wildcats didn’t relent, with a fast-break dunk by Bradley resulting a 54-32 lead and a USC timeout at the 8:14 mark

The Wildcats’ biggest lead of the second half was 24 points.

–Anthony Gimino, Field Level Media

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