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Arizona men’s basketball rallies to beat USC, complete home first sweep of LA schools since 2016

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-recap-usc-trojans-pac12-2022-highlights-stats-home-sweep-mckale Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats remain unbeaten at home, but those wins have become much, much harder.

The UA used a 10-0 run late in the second half to rally from down six, then held No. 19 USC over the final 3:57 to win 72-63 on Saturday afternoon at McKale Center.

Third-ranked Arizona (19-2, 9-1 Pac-12) outscored USC 18-3 over the final 6:29, hitting 7 of 9 free throws down the stretch to complete its first home sweep of the Los Angeles schools since 2016. It was the UA’s 15th straight home win, but after winning its first 10 at McKale this season by an average of 31.1 points the last three have been by 11, 10 and 9.

Azuolas Tubelis led the Wildcats with 18 points and 11 rebounds, his best effort since suffering a high ankle sprain Jan. 20 at Stanford, Kerr Kriisa had 13 including three 3-pointers in the second half and Christian Koloko added 10 points, 7 rebounds and three blocks.

Arizona led 29-28 at the half but extended to 39-33 thanks to back-to-back baskets from Bennedict Mathurin, the first on a back-door baseline feed from Terry and the second on a Euro step after Kriisa fed him in transition.

After USC rallied to lead by one, Pelle Larsson made a pair of free throws to put the UA up 48-47 with 11 minutes remaining, the Wildcats’ first foul shots of the second half after going 6 of 12 from the line before halftime. Dalen Terry followed with a 3-point play to make it 51-47 with 9:55 to go.

A 10-0 USC run put it up 60-54 with 6:30 left, but then Arizona sped things up and scored 10 points in 90 seconds to go back up by four. Tubelis laid one in on a backdoor pass from Terry, was fouled and completed the 3-point play, then after a Koloko block the Wildcats tied it at 60 on a Kriisa 3, forcing a Trojans timeout.

Paint scores by Tubelis and Koloko completed the 10-0 UA run.

Down 2, USC had four chances to tie or take the lead on the same possession but couldn’t get a shot to fall, and Arizona extended the margin to 66-62 with 2:37 left on a Koloko hook shot. The Trojans (19-4, 9-4) never got closer than three points after that, missing 15 of their final 16 shots to shoot 34.3 percent for the game.

The first half was marked by long scoring droughts for both teams, with Arizona going scoreless for nearly four minutes as USC build a 10-5 lead. The Wildcats then scored nine points in 75 seconds to go up 14-10, while holding the Trojans without points for almost five minutes, but then the UA had only one point over the next 6:48.

Arizona used a 7-0 run to build a 28-21 lead with 1:49 left but managed only one point the rest of the half, with USC hitting a pair of baskets in the final 34 seconds including Ethan Anderson’s corner jumper at the buzzer that was originally called a 3-pointer which would have tied the game going into the locker room.

There was also a scary moment in the opening minute when Terry and USC’s Boogie Ellis collided heads going for a loose ball, but both returned to the game a few minutes later.

The UA heads up Interstate 10 to take on ASU on Monday night, the start of another 3-game road swing that will continue Thursday at Washington and Feb. 12 at Washington State.