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Arizona holds off USC for Sean Miller’s 400th career victory

arizona-usc-basketball-final-score-recap-wildcats-trojans-highlights-reaction-takeaways Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Josh Green got his groove back, and in doing so helped the Arizona Wildcats to another huge victory while giving Sean Miller a milestone.

Green had 18 points, his most since Thanksgiving, and No. 23 Arizona won both the rebounding and turnover battle to build a big lead and then hang on for an 85-80 win over the USC Trojans on Thursday night at McKale Center.

It was the 400th career win for Miller, 280 of which have been in his 11 seasons at Arizona.

Zeke Nnaji had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Nico Mannion added 20 with seven assists assists as the Wildcats (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12) won their third in a row to remain tied in the loss column atop the conference standings at the midway point.

Arizona looked like it was going to win handily, leading by 10 at the break and 20 less than seven minutes into the second half, only to see USC (17-6, 6-4) storm back by taking advantage of sluggish play on both ends of the court by the Wildcats.

The Trojans outscored Arizona 39-24 over the final 13:31 as the Wildcats did not make a field goal in the last 8:20 of play. USC (17-6, 6-4) got as close as 83-80 on a 3-pointer by Jonah Mathews with five seconds left but Mannion hit two free throws with three seconds left to lock up the win.

Arizona allowed USC to shoot 50 percent, including 53.3 percent in the second half, but it was its attention to fundamentals that overcame that. The Wildcats outrebounded the Trojans 34-30, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds and holding the second-best offensive rebounding team in the Pac-12 to just nine.

The Wildcats turned it over only six times, the same as it did in Saturday’s win at Washington State. USC had 12 turnovers, which Arizona turned into 18 points, scoring 17 on the Trojans’ first eight giveaways.

Four USC turnovers before the first TV timeout of the second half helped Arizona extend a 10-point halftime edge into a 61-41 lead with 13:31 to go. That included a 10-0 run that began with Mannion hitting a three shortly after USC’s Nick Rakocevic was called for a travel, then Green dunked on a break after stealing it at midcourt.

But what followed was a 13-minute stretch in which Arizona reverted back to its worst self, taking bad shots or being careless with the ball and falling asleep on defense. The Wildcats missed their final six shots, and while they got to the line 24 times in the last 6:39 they missed nine foul shots, going 28 of 40 overall.

Arizona led 43-33 at halftime thanks to a 12-4 run over the final 3:29, during with Green had a pair of dunks. The first came after Mannion fed him in the corner and he got his defender in the air before driving around him on the baseline, and the second saw him put back a missed 3-pointer by Jemarl Baker Jr. and swing on the rim for a few moments.

Green was 6 of 11 from the field, hitting two threes for the first time since Jan. 12 at Oregon.

Arizona will go for its fourth straight win on Saturday night when they host the UCLA Bruins at McKale Center. It hasn’t swept the Los Angeles schools at home since 2016.