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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 12 Arizona MBB returns home to face injury-plagued USC

Jackie Cabrera
Arizona men’s basketball player Keshad Johnson dunks on Tuesday, Nov. 7, in McKale Center. The Wildcats won the game against Morgan State University 122-59.

The No. 12 University of Arizona men’s basketball team returns to McKale Center to face USC on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 8 p.m. The Wildcats (12-4, 3-2 Pac-12) will look to rebound and get back into the win column after suffering a disappointing 73-70 loss against Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, over the weekend. After their loss against the Cougars, Arizona slipped from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP poll, back where they started to open the season.

History vs. USC

Wednesday night marks the 120th meeting between the two programs. Arizona currently holds a 74-45 lead in the series and an all-time home record of 46-11 in Tucson. Since 2010, the Wildcats are 20-6, including winners of five straight. The two teams first met in 1922 and have played each other on a yearly basis every season since 1979. With the Wildcats moving to the Big 12 and USC moving to the Big Ten, the rivalry could be nearing a close next season.

USC players to watch

The Trojans are led by Andy Enfield, who, in his 11th season with the team, boasts a record of 213-138. Enfield has led USC to five NCAA Tournament appearances and seven seasons of 20 or more wins. The Trojans entered the 2023-24 season with high aspirations after bringing a strong recruiting class, which ranked 10th in the country. USC opened the season 2-0, reaching a high of No. 16 in the Week 2 AP Poll rankings.

However, the Trojans‘ season has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play, resulting in an 8-9 record midway through January. With the majority of their remaining 14 games against teams above .500, the path to an NCAA Tournament bid for the Trojans is slim to none.

Boogie Ellis

The fifth-year senior leads the Trojans in scoring with 18.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Ellis has reached double figures in scoring in all but one game this season and has scored 20 or more points eight times. Although barred by injuries, Ellis still averages career highs in scoring, assists and rebounds. The senior guard missed USC’s most recent matchup and could be absent against Arizona.

Kobe Johnson

Johnson ranks third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 4.7 rebounds per game. The junior guard has been forced to step up due to injuries to several key USC players, including freshman Isaiah Collier, who ranks second on the team in scoring. Johnson has had an impressive start to the season, scoring 18 or more points in each of the first four games. However, his performance has declined since November, and he has only managed to achieve that feat once since then.

Bronny James

LeBron James’ eldest son, Bronny James, is averaging 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in his first season with the team. Bronny James seemed primed for an exciting opening season with the Trojans, but a harrowing collapse due to cardiac arrest on July 24 put his basketball career on pause. However, after heart surgery and months of recovery, James made his return to basketball in December. James’ minutes have slowly increased since his return, and the freshman guard made his first career start last weekend against the University of Colorado.

Wildcats to watch

The Wildcats are coming off their lowest-scoring effort of the season, of 70 points during their loss against Washington State last weekend. However, Arizona still boasts one of the most robust offenses in the country, averaging 91.2 points per game, which ranks second in the country. According to Kenpom, Arizona’s offense ranks fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency, while their defense ranks third.

Caleb Love

The former University of North Carolina Tar Heel has been the only consistent playmaker for the Wildcats this season. Love leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Through Arizona’s 16 games, Love has scored 20 or more points eight times, including five times over Arizona’s last six games. Love is averaging career highs in scoring, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage. The senior guard has been playing his best basketball over the past month, but the rest of the Wildcats have seen a decrease in production.

Oumar Ballo

Despite a decrease in production compared to last season, Ballo’s contribution to the Wildcats’ game cannot be overlooked. He has continued to make his presence felt on the boards and has been an essential scorer for the team. The senior center averages 12.7 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting a career-low 59.4% from the field. Additionally, Ballo has been inconsistent from the field as of late; over Arizona’s last seven games, Ballo has shot below 46% from the field four times.

Kylan Boswell

Boswell is averaging 10.4 points and a team-high four assists per game. However, since December, the sophomore guard, Boswell, has been struggling with his shooting, despite starting the season off strong. He shot only 34.4% from the field in December. Boswell seemed to be on an upswing when he scored double digits in back-to-back games at the start of January, but his shooting struggles returned during Arizona’s recent loss against Washington State. He failed to score any points, going 0-5 from the field.

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