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Arizona men’s basketball gets back on track with home win over USC

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-usc-trojans-final-score-recap-stats-highlights-bronny-james-pac12 Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Bronny James helped pack the house, but Arizona brought it down.

The Wildcats continued their trend under Tommy Lloyd of playing tremendous immediately after a loss, jumping on USC early and more or less cruising to an 82-67 win on Wednesday night at McKale Center.

12th-ranked Arizona (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) improved to 13-0 the last three seasons in games following a regular-season loss, winning by an average of 24.6 points. This year those four wins have been by 23.5 points, including the 97-50 bludgeoning of Colorado two weeks ago.

A star-studded, sold out crowd that included Kevin Durant, Miles Simon and Ka’Deem Carey, as well as new UA football coach Brent Brennan—and sophomore stars Noah Fifita, Jonah Coleman, Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Manu—saw Arizona lead by 10 or more for all but 101 seconds in the second half yet still show plenty of stretches of sloppy offensive play like in the 3-point loss at Washington State.

Caleb Love scored 20 points, hitting five 3-pointers, Pelle Larsson had 13, Kylan Boswell 11 and both Jaden Bradley and Keshad Johnson 10 as Arizona shot 40 percent overall and 38.5 percent from 3 but only 61.5 percent from the line.

Oumar Ballo had six of Arizona’s 10 missed free throws but made up for it with 13 rebounds, joining Johnson with 13 boards. The Wildcats outrebounded USC by nine and had 21 offensive boards which they converted into 22 points.

The Trojans (8-10, 2-4) got 16 points from DJ Rodman and 11 points, five rebounds and a career-best six assists from James, who was making his second career start. USC was without two starters because of injury and finished with 19 turnovers.

Up 45-35 at the half, Arizona managed to keep USC at arms length while alternating highlight-reel plays with some sloppy moments. Two of the former were by Boswell, who did not start the second halfBradley did—but after coming in pump-faked a USC defender into the air and fed Love for a corner 3 and later spun a reverse layup in while getting fouled.

Boswell’s 3-point play was part of a 7-0 run to make it 64-46 with 11:36 left. Then Arizona went four minutes without a basket, a shorter version of the shooting drought it had in the first half, but still kept the lead at 14 or more.

That is, until back-to-back turnovers off bad passes led to five USC points, cutting the lead to 71-59 with 5:01 to go. A botched breakaway dunk by Love, following a steal, could have added to the drama but Bradley got the loose ball and finished off his second spectacular 3-point play of the game to get the lead back to 15.

Consecutive 3s by USC got it within 77-67 with 2:07 left but then Larsson hit a 3 and Love had a floater fall with an extra bounce.

Arizona came out with its hair on fire, making seven of nine shots and getting shorthanded USC into early foul trouble. But after KJ Lewis scored with 15:13 left in the first half to make it 19-9 the Wildcats missed 10 shots in a row before Johnson drained a corner 3 with 8:26 to go.

Once Arizona started making shots, though, the defense began to struggle. USC made four of six shots and got within 31-28 with 5:14 remaining.

The Trojans only made two more baskets after that, with a 7-0 Arizona run helping to get the lead to double figures at the break.

The UA returns to action Saturday afternoon for its final Pac-12 home meeting with UCLA, which rallied from down 13 at halftime to win at ASU on Wednesday night.