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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 5 Arizona MBB set to close out its regular season on the road against UCLA and USC

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Olivia Malone
Arizona’s Kylan Boswell (4) is on the defense in UA’s game against USC on Wednesday, Jan. 17. The game ended in an 82-67 point win for the Wildcats.

The No. 5 Arizona men’s basketball team is back on the road this week as it prepares to close off its regular season against UCLA on Thursday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. and USC on Saturday, March 9, at 8 p.m. The Wildcats (23-6, 14-4 Pac-12) aim to clinch the Pac-12 regular-season title with a weekend sweep over two struggling basketball teams with a combined record of 26-32.

History vs. UCLA

Thursday night marks the 110th meeting between the two programs. UCLA currently holds a 60-49 lead in the series and an all-time home record of 35-15 in Pauley Pavilion. Since its last road victory against the Bruins on Jan. 21, 2017, the Wildcats are 0-5, with three of their five losses coming by 14 or more points.

However, under head coach Tommy Lloyd, Arizona is 5-2 against UCLA, winners of two straight. When the two teams met earlier this season, the Wildcats overcame a 19-point first-half deficit to stun UCLA 77-71 in front of a sold-out McKale Center on Jan. 20. With a victory on Thursday, Arizona can complete its first season sweep of UCLA since the 2014- 2015 season.

UCLA players to watch

Mick Cronin is leading the Bruins in his fifth season at the helm. He boasts a 113-51 record, leading UCLA to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, one trip to the Final Four and one Pac-12 regular-season title.

However, the Bruins’ season has been disappointing. With a record of 15-14 and 9-9 in Pac-12 play, UCLA is on pace for its first losing season since 2015- 2016, when it went 15-17. Marred by a series of losing streaks throughout the season, the Bruins enter their upcoming matchup against the Wildcats with a season-long four-game losing streak.

Sebastian Mack

Although leading UCLA in scoring, averaging 12.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, Sebastian Mack has been plagued by inconsistencies since entering conference play. Before conference play began, Mack averaged 15.1 points per game, reaching double figures in eight out of 11 games. However, Mack averages 11.3 points in conference play, reaching double figures in only nine of UCLA’s 18 games.

Adem Bona

Adem Bona, the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, ranks second in scoring and rebounding for the Bruins, averaging 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Known for his defensive abilities, Bona leads UCLA with 1.8 blocks per game, which ranks second in the conference. In addition to winning Freshman of the Year, he was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.

Lazar Stefanovic

After averaging only 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game through the Bruin’s first 16 games, Lazar Stefanovic has found his rhythm down the stretch and has become one of UCLA’s key players. Over the Bruins last 13 games, Stefanovic has reached double figures in all but one game and is averaging a team-high 11.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

History vs. USC

Wednesday night marks the 121st meeting between the two programs. Arizona currently holds a 75-45 lead in the series. However, the Trojans have fared well at home, holding a record of 33-25 against the Wildcats. Yet, over the last 10 meetings, Arizona has held its own with a record of 7-3, including three straight wins on the road. During their matchup on Jan. 17, in Tucson, the Wildcats cruised past the Trojans 82-67, extending their winning streak to six straight games over USC.

USC players to watch

The Trojans are led by Andy Enfield who, in his 11th season with the team, boasts a record of 217-146. Enfield has led the Trojans to five NCAA Tournament appearances and seven seasons with 20 or more wins. The team had high hopes for the 2023- 2024 season after recruiting a strong class, which ranked third in the country.

Unfortunately, USC’s season has been riddled with injuries and poor play, resulting in a disappointing record of 12-17 and 6-12 Pac-12. The Trojans are on pace for their worst season since 2014- 2015 when they went 12-20. USC opened the season ranked inside the top 25, reaching No. 16 in the country before quickly tumbling out of the rankings. After a six-game losing streak closed the month of January, the Trojans are 4-4 over their last eight games, with three of their losses by a combined 12 points.

Isaiah Collier

Isaiah Collier entered the season as the second-best player coming out of high school. Averaging a team-high 17 points and 4.1 assists, Collier has been a fundamental piece for the Trojans. After battling injuries throughout the middle half of the season, Collier missed six games before returning to action in early February. Since his return, he is averaging 20.6 points and 4.1 assists, including a career-high 31 points against the University of Washington last weekend.

Boogie Ellis

The fifth-year senior is averaging 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and three assists per game. Similarly to Collier, Boogie Ellis has dealt with injuries, which forced him to miss four games this season. After averaging 18 points per game through the first half of the season, Ellis is averaging only 13.3 points per game over the Trojans’ last 10 games, failing to reach double figures in half of those games.

DJ Rodman

The son of former NBA star Dennis Rodman is averaging 8.1 points and a team-high five rebounds per game. Rodman’s season has seen some flashes, including a 16-point and seven-rebound performance against the Wildcats earlier this season. After averaging 5.8 points and four rebounds through the first two months of the season, Rodman has averaged 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds since the start of January.

Wildcats to watch

The Wildcats’ robust offense is one of the strongest in college basketball. They average 90.3 points per game, which ranks second in the country and have a margin of victory of 17, which ranks fourth in the country. According to Kenpom, Arizona’s offense ranks sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency, while its defense ranks 15th, placing them fourth with an overall adjusted efficiency margin of +28.03.

Kylan Boswell

Kylan Boswell is averaging 10.4 points and 3.6 assists per game. The sophomore guard has dealt with a roller coaster of a season. In November, Boswell averaged 13.5 points per game before running ice-cold in December, January and February, averaging 8.7 points per game while shooting below 40%. However, Boswell has found his rhythm over Arizona’s last two games, averaging 18 points behind a 78% shooting percentage from the field and 73% from beyond the arc. Boswell makes Arizona a dangerous team when hot, but the Wildcats are a beatable team when his struggles linger.

Caleb Love

The former University of North Carolina Tar Heel has been Arizona’s offensive engine. He is currently averaging a team-high 19.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, both of which are career highs. Caleb Love has been consistent throughout the season, scoring in double figures in all but one game. Love’s ability to deliver away from home has been a crucial factor in the Wildcats’ success, with an average of 21.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game on the road.

Oumar Ballo

The senior is averaging 13.1 points and a team-high 10.2 rebounds per game, which ranks 12th in the country. Arizona’s big man has been playing some of his best basketball as of late, recording nine straight double-doubles, one shy of Al Fleming’s record of 10 straight. During this stretch, Oumar Ballo is averaging 15.1 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, helping the Wildcats go 8-1. The Wildcats will need Ballo to continue playing at his best if they want to sweep the weekend in California.


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