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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona looks to build momentum against USC

Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker/The Daily Wildcat

Tonight’s men’s basketball game between No. 7 Arizona and USC is much more than just a college basketball game: It’s the night when Arizona retires Jason Terry’s jersey at halftime. The Jet played four seasons as a Wildcat and was a member of the 1997 National Championship team. 

Terry is part of Arizona’s rich tradition of talented guards and a player who Arizona head coach Sean Miller said exemplifies what the program is all about. 

“He represents all of the qualities that you would really want in a player,” Miller said. “Let me go deeper into that. The fact that he was the sixth man on the national championship team and, as you learn more about that team and the stories behind it, I think he really voluntarily became the sixth man at one point, says a lot about who he was as a teammate and how unselfish he is.” 

Miller added that not many players today would be willing to do what Terry did. 

The Wildcats and Trojans face off in a rather ho-hum affair on the court. While Arizona (22-3, 10-2 Pac-12 Conference) has remained in the top 10 of the national rankings all season, USC has been stuck in the Pac-12 doldrums with a 10-15 overall record, including a 2-11 conference record. 

Gone are the days of the mid-2000s where O.J. Mayo, Taj Gibson and Nikola Vucevic carried different Trojan teams to success. Sophomores Nikola Jovanovic and Katin Reinhardt and freshman Jordan McLaughlin lead USC head coach Andy Enfield’s team this season. 

Jovanovic and Reinhardt are tied with a team-high 12.4 points per game, while McLaughlin is not far behind at 12.1 points per game. McLaughlin also leads in assists per game, Reinhardt leads in 3-point makes and Jovanovic is the team’s leading rebounder. 

The trio, however, has not been enough to lift USC to more conference wins. The Trojans had lost nine games in a row before beating Oregon State on Saturday.

Despite their troubles, Miller said he’s not overlooking USC in favor of Saturday’s marquee matchup with UCLA. 

Miller added that his team is ready for Thursday’s matchup, in part due to T.J. McConnell’s recent outpouring of offense. McConnell has put up double-digit points in four of his last five games, including 25 points in the loss to ASU earlier this month.

“He’s playing excellent basketball right now, and in the Pac-12, he’s been our most consistent player, if you judge us by every game we’ve played,” Miller said. 

As the Wildcats take the court on Thursday, McConnell’s leadership will be key as the team looks to focus on USC instead of UCLA.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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