After falling just short of a late comeback victory against the UCLA Bruins, the Arizona Wildcats are now looking to salvage a split on their Los Angeles road swing when they take on the USC Trojans on Saturday.
USC is 2-1 in Pac-12 play and 13-3 overall, coming off a victory over ASU late Thursday night. The Trojans blew a 20-point lead to Washington last weekend, and almost did the same against the Sun Devils on Thursday, but a late offensive explosion on three possessions gave USC the 75-65 conquest at home.
Who to watch:
USC is quite possibly the most well-balanced scoring team you'll find in the country. They have five players averaging double-digits, but all five guys are averaging somewhere between 12.1 and 12.9 points per contest. That's some even scoring output if I've ever seen it.
Leading the way is UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt. His production will come from the perimeter, as well as Bennie Boatwright, as both of them are shooting just over 40% from beyond the arc on just under 80 three-point attempts each. Reinhardt's swag (for lack of a better word) is something that's stood out about him since his days at UNLV, and you know the moment of hosting Arizona won't be too big for him.
When you're looking for who distributes the ball, both Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs are averaging about 5.5 assists per game, in addition to their 12ish points each. These are the two that you would expect to see Kadeem Allen guard one, and then Gabe York or Allonzo Trier take the other for the most part.
Down low, Nikola Jovanovic is still around, averaging 12.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. At 6'11", he'll be one of the tallest tests that Arizona has seen this year, but with Kaleb Tarczewski looking healthy and playing a lot of minutes, I'd expect to see Zeus get the majority of the minutes in this one guarding the junior Trojan.
Coming off the bench, keep an eye out for 6'11" freshman Chimezie Metu. Although he only plays about 17 minutes per game, he averages two blocks per contest, so his presence down low might be a hinderance to Ryan Anderson's offensive game.
What to watch:
This game is going to be all about coaching adjustments:
"I don't know if anyone's done a better job in our conference this year than Andy Enfield and his coaching staff," Miller said on Tuesday. "Whether it be through their recruiting efforts or the development of some of the good young players that are becoming better."
"Just following USC's success in the non-conference, watching their style and the tempo they're playing, they have a good basketball team and I'm sure they're very excited to play in the Pac-12 with this team after going through what they did the last couple of years and the rebuilding process."
Miller said after the UCLA loss that a lot of things could change:
Miller basically said tonight that if you're not defending, you're not playing. Insinuated he is going to hold guys more accountable.— Jason Scheer (@JasonScheer) January 8, 2016
I, for one, would expect to see Kaleb Tarczewski back in the starting lineup, as he is a much better defensive option than Dusan Ristic, even only two games into his return after missing about five weeks of action.
Ryan Anderson on Boatwright will be interesting, as Anderson looked awful at times on defense on Thursday, and will have to defend the perimeter in this one. Boatwright is 32-78 from three, and just 27-of-57 from two. It might actually end up being a better matchup for Mark Tollefsen, as he spends more time on the perimeter, and matches up size-wise with the 6'10" freshman.
I wouldn't be surprised if this ended up turning into a shooting contest between Gabe York and Katin Reinhardt. There's plenty of confidence oozing from those two guys, and you know York will have a little extra something as he looks to keep his team from getting swept on this road trip.
Arizona and USC are scheduled to tip off at 5 PM MST on Pac-12 Networks Saturday evening.