The first half may have been ugly, but it did not matter in the end, as Arizona defeated USC 73-53 Sunday night at the Galen Center to set the record for the best start in school history at 17-0.
Brandon Ashley scored the first points of the game, but Nikola Jovanovic matched it. Aaron Gordon and Ashley then scored again as Arizona led 6-2 with 15:51 left in the first half.
Byron Wesley scored and Nick Johnson followed with a three. Wesley then scored again before Ashley got a basket. After a bucket by Pe’shon Howard, Strahinj Gavrilovic scored. A three by T.J. McConnell then gave Arizona a 14-10 lead with 11:52 left in the half.
After a jumper by McConnell, consecutive three-pointers by Julian Jacobs and Gavrilovic forced Sean Miller to take a timeout with the game tied at 16 with 10:23 left.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored out of the timeout, but Jovanovic did the same. Wesley then picked up a three-point play and the Trojans went up 21-18. Ashley and Jovanovic exchanged jumpers before a three by McConnell tied the game at 23 with 6:44 left in the first half.
Wesley made two free-throws and J.T. Terrell hit a jumper before McConnell made a three to cut the Trojans’ lead to 27-26. Gabe York made two free-throws and Gordon got a layup to extend the Arizona lead to 30-27 with 2:39 left in the half.
Ashley scored and then followed with two free-throws, but Jacobs got two on a goal tending call. Howard proceeded to score on a layup at the buzzer and the Trojans went into the half only down 34-31.
Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski scored to start the half and force a quick timeout by USC with the Wildcats up 38-31. A three by Johnson soon after put Arizona up 41-31 with 15:37 left in regulation.
Ashley proceeded to make one of two from the line, but Jovanovic and Jacobs scored consecutive hoops as Sean Miller called timeout with the lead down to seven. Johnson and Gordon then scored before Wesley picked up a three-point play. A score by Gordon shortly after gave the Wildcats a 48-38 lead with 11:50 left in regulation.
Gavrilovic made two from the line and followed it up with a three-point play before Ashley and McConnell scored to put Arizona back up 52-43.
Jacobs got open for a lob, but McConnell hit a three on the next trip down court. Wesley and Johnson exchanged hoops, as a bucket by Hollis-Jefferson put Arizona up 59-47 with 4:19 left in regulation.
Ashley made two from the line less than a minute later, as Omar Oraby answered almost right away. Johnson then made a floater and McConnell a three as the 17-point cushion would be more than enough for the Wildcats.