The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

75° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Trojans: 1st priority

    USC guard O.J. Mayo tries to strip the ball away from Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless in the teams matchup Jan. 31 in the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The two freshman guards will square off again tonight in McKale Center in a battle for third place in the Pac-10.
    USC guard O.J. Mayo tries to strip the ball away from Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless in the teams’ matchup Jan. 31 in the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The two freshman guards will square off again tonight in McKale Center in a battle for third place in the Pac-10.

    USC at Arizona

    The Arizona men’s basketball team isn’t looking to end its final homestand with a bang, at least not yet.

    First the pin must be pulled from the grenade. Baby steps, if you will.

    Even with No. 4 UCLA coming into Tucson Sunday, the Wildcats (17-10, 7-7 Pacific 10 Conference) will keep that game and the postseason off their minds and focus on tonight’s contest at 7 with USC (17-9, 8-6), which will be nationally televised on ESPN.

    “”We’re anxious about USC Thursday,”” said senior guard Jawann McClellan. “”I don’t think we’re looking ahead to the Pac-10 Tournament or even for UCLA Sunday, for that matter.””

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill has said all along that every game is important and that the season must be taken a game at a time. Now is the time he hopes his players heed his words and remember that they must go through USC first before UCLA.

    “”Saying, ‘Oh let’s get a split, let’s win three of four,’ or whatever – we’ve got too young a team to sit down and say (that). My approach with our guys, since (the season started) Nov. 4, is, ‘Let’s just do this thing one game at a time.'””

    USC head coach Tim Floyd seems to have the same mindset, saying he didn’t know if any team could beat Arizona and ASU in the same weekend on the road – something that hasn’t been done yet this season. Stanford and UCLA did, however, sweep the Arizona schools in California.

    But the last time the Wildcats were in Los Angeles, they beat USC 80-69, thanks in large part to forward Chase Budinger’s game-high 29 points and McClellan’s career-high 23. Guards Nic Wise and Jerryd Bayless chipped in with nine and 10, respectively.

    “”Budinger and Bayless both hurt us but also McClellan had an outstanding game,”” Floyd said. “”They’ve got too many guys that can hurt you.””

    McClellan attributed his career night to the Trojans’ triangle-and-2 defense, which gave him many uncontested shots. He shot 7-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point land.

    “”When he’s open, he can make a shot and we left him open too much last game,”” Floyd said.

    Added McClellan: “”I don’t think coach Floyd will try that again.””

    Floyd lauded Arizona’s defense the last time out, even though the Trojans shot 50 percent from the floor, compared to the Wildcats’ 48.3 percent.

    Guard O.J. Mayo led USC’s offense with 23 points, while center Taj Gibson and forward Davon Jefferson combined for another 36.

    The matchup of the game, though, was Bayless and Mayo.

    “”It’s not a one-on-one game,”” Bayless said. “”It’s Arizona vs. USC.””

    With only four regular season games left and a hazy postseason outlook, the Wildcats know a win is necessary to boost NCAA Tournament status.

    “”We need the win,”” McClellan said. “”Every win is a must-win we think. We don’t want to leave it up to the (NCAA Tournament) Committee because you never know about the committee being East Coast biased. We just want to take it one game at a time.””

    To do that, Arizona can’t worry about UCLA, a team with just three losses, albeit two from Pac-10 teams. It can’t worry about the Oregon Schools or get caught up in the spider web of bracketology.

    “”We can’t look past USC,”” said redshirt senior Kirk Walters. “”We’re really going to have to play hard for that first game and then, you know – it’s just a tough two games coming up.””


    BREAKDOWN
    Tale of the tape: USC at Arizona

    Guards
    Both teams have superstar combo guards (Bayless and Mayo) but have no depth while missing a key guard. If Daniel Hackett can play, the edge goes to the Trojans.

    Advantage: Push

    Forwards/Center
    It’s critical for Jordan Hill and Taj Gibson to stay out of foul trouble, as both teams are significantly better with their big man on the court. Davon Jefferson, who went for 19 on 8-for-12 shooting in the first meeting, is a bit more polished of a freshman than Jamelle Horne.

    Advantage: USC

    Intangibles
    Both teams don’t have depth, but the Wildcats have a bit more to fight for playing at home and trailing the Trojans by a game in the conference standings.

    Advantage: Arizona

    Prediction
    Everything points to this being a close game, with a pair of teams incredibly talented at the top but lacking much behind their stars. Based on the way Arizona attacked USC last time and since the Wildcats are starting to get comfortable playing without the injured Nic Wise, look for them to barely squeak by.

    Arizona 68, USC 66

    – compiled by Michael Schwartz


    More to Discover
    Activate Search