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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 1 Arizona MBB takes on No. 9 USC in Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinals in Las Vegas

Celeste Lizarraga
Caleb Love celebrates his shot against University of Washington in McKale Center on Feb. 24. Love scored 28 points to eclipse 2,000 for his career.

The No. 1 seed Arizona men’s basketball team begins its trip in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament, which will begin with a rematch against No. 9 seed USC in a quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 14, at noon in T-Mobile Arena. The Wildcats are coming off a 78-65 loss to USC on March 9, in their regular-season finale after clinching the Pac-12 Regular Season Title as the No. 1 seed against UCLA in the 88-65 victory on March 7.  The Trojans faced the University of Washington in the first round of the tournament on March 13, and defeated the Huskies 80-74 to claim the right to face Arizona in the quarterfinals. 

History vs. USC

The upcoming quarterfinal game will mark the 122nd meeting between the two programs with Arizona currently 7-3 in the last 10 matchups against USC.  The Wildcats lead the series record 75-46 as both schools first met in 1922, but now Arizona will look to write the final chapter of history between these teams as the Pac-12 comes to an end.

USC players to watch

The Trojans are on a four-game winning streak heading into their matchup against Arizona. In the beginning month of the new year, USC was faced with a six-game losing streak that has led to the collection of its 15-17 season record and 8-12 record in the Pac-12 Conference.

Boogie Ellis is the current leading scorer for the Trojans as the guard averages 16.9 points, three assists, 3.5 rebounds and grabs 1.4 steals per game. In the victory over Washington, Ellis led USC in scoring, putting up a stat line of 25 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals in the game, shooting 5-10 from 3-point range. The six-foot-nine guard achieved his 2,000th career-point against the Huskies as well. The transfer from the University of Memphis has tallied 80 points in his last five games, with 42 of those points coming from two separate meetings against Washington.  

Isaiah Collier had a clutch-like performance against Washington as the guard made two crucial free-throws with 27 seconds left in regulation to put the Trojans up 76-71. He finished the game with 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Collier is the second-leading scorer for the Trojans and additionally leads the team in assists, putting up 16.4 points, 4.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. The guard manages to also grab 1.5 steals per game and recently achieved a game-high 31 points against Washington when the two schools met on March 2. 

USC is made up of multiple versatile guards who are able to impact the game. Six-foot-six Kobe Johnson is one of those guards who has marked double-figures in his last four of five games played. Johnson leads the teams in steals, averaging 10.8 ppg, 3.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Furthermore, Johnson put up 14 points, four assists and eight rebounds on 6-16 of his shooting for the day in the 80-74 victory over Washington. 

Wildcats to watch

Caleb Love was officially named Pac-12 Player of the Year for the 2023-2024 men’s basketball season on March 12, being the 10th Wildcat in program history to be given this award during the Pac-12 men’s basketball all-conference honors. However, in their most recent game, against USC, Love collected a season-worst two points on his 1-10 shooting for that evening. The guard is one of five players for Arizona who averages double-figures and holds the place as the team’s leading scorer, putting up 18.7 points, 3.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game.  

Arizona had five players mentioned at the Pac-12 honors as Oumar Ballo received an accolade, making the Pac-12 All-Defensive team and All Pac-12 First Team, along with teammates Pelle Larsson and Love. The seven-foot center has recorded 10 double-doubles playing in his last 11 games, when he broke the nine-game streak against UCLA on March 7, but quickly redeemed himself against USC, scoring 17 points and 10 rebounds that night. Ballo has continued to lead the team in rebounding while averaging a double-double of 13.1 ppg and 10 rebounds. 

Keshad Johnson helped to manage the game alongside Ballo in their loss against USC with his 17 points, five assists and three rebounds as the forward was another Wildcat named as an honorable mention for the Pac-12 All-Defensive team. Additionally, Johnson put up 11 rebounds with his 7 points against UCLA as he is the team’s second leading rebounder averaging 5.8 per game. The forward plays a vital role in scoring, putting up 11.9 points and 1.9 assists per game.

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