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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    L.A. jinx no more

    Arizona 80, USC 69

    LOS ANGELES – The curse of Los Angeles has been broken.

    After losing seven straight games to the schools from LA, the Wildcats (15-6, 5-3 Pacific 10 Conference) broke through last night with an 80-69 win at USC (13-7, 4-4), the team’s fourth win in a row in a wild Pac-10 race, where Arizona has now moved up to a third-place tie.

    In contrast to last year’s game when an exuberant Galen Center crowd rushed the floor, fans streamed toward the exits in the game’s final minute, and the depressing air in the visiting locker room present after last year’s game at USC was nowhere to be found.

    “”I don’t even want to think about that last year, I don’t even want to get back into that season,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”But yeah, completely different, we’re all confident right now. We just came off a huge win, and we’re happy unlike last year it was not like that.””

    UA guard Jawann McClellan stepped up with a career game against a triangle-and-two defense the Trojans employed that left him open for numerous shots.

    McClellan answered the bell by scoring a career-high 23 points and grabbing eight boards.

    That made up for an off night from guard Jerryd Bayless, who scored just 10.

    “”The one thing this team’s done is when somebody else is struggling like Jerryd does, somebody else steps up,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill, “”and I like the fact that we stepped up tonight.””

    O’Neill game planned for the triangle-and-two by inverting the defense and thus putting McClellan and Nic Wise at the top of the key. That often left them open and led to the career game for McClellan, who Budinger called the Wildcats’ X-factor and the reason they won the game.

    McClellan started off hot from the tip, scoring 10 of Arizona’s first 14 points in the first eight minutes while hitting five of his first six shots. He scored 13 points in all in the first half, better than his output from all put two games this season.

    “”When he’s on, we’re unstoppable. Us three right here,”” Budinger said, sitting between Bayless and forward Jordan Hill, “”are always going to be able to produce, but if a fourth person comes on for us, it’s very tough to beat us.””

    Added McClellan: “”I’m just taking opportunities that the defense is giving me. Luckily enough we were able to make shots.””

    While McClellan’s strong game stood out, Budinger continued his torrid play of late by scoring 29 points on 11-for-20 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds. Budinger has now scored at least 20 points in his past four games, averaging 24.3 points per game in that span.

    He scored eight of his 11 first-half points in the final six minutes to help the Wildcats lead by three at halftime despite allowing the Trojans to shoot 59.1 percent in the first half, sparking an 8-0 run that put Arizona on top with five points and an assist.

    Later in the game he scored 11 points during a 23-8 run starting with under 8:30 left that helped the Wildcats regain the lead and pull away.

    “”I’ve been feeling good,”” Budinger said. “”I’m very confident with myself right now shooting the ball. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s all mental for me.””

    That’s also the case for the Wildcats as a whole, who shot 48.3 percent against the conference’s best field-goal percentage defense and have arguably become the conference’s hottest team.

    “”They’re hard to score on, they’re hard to play against, they’re extremely well-coached,”” O’Neill said. “”We feel very fortunate to get out of here with a win.””

    And 1

    USC played most of the game without guard Daniel Hackett, who bruised his hip two minutes into the game and did not return. Hackett usually helps the Trojans in many areas, averaging 11.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and a team-high 4.0 assists per game. …

    Forward Bret Brielmaier dressed, but O’Neill said he just wasn’t ready to return from the separated shoulder that’s now sidelined him for five of the past six games. He added the team’s hoping to have Brielmaier back tomorrow at No. 5 UCLA. …

    Hill said he’s also bothered by a shoulder injury suffered Saturday against Washington, which causes a sharp pain when he tries to raise his arm too high. Hill scored seven points on 3-for-10 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, six on the offensive glass.

    “”I haven’t been the same right now,”” he said. “”I’ve just got to fight through it and help my team.”” …

    Wise tied a career high with eight assists.

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