Arizona-Southern Cal Preview
Visits to Los Angeles haven't usually proved fruitful in recent seasons for Arizona, but now it has a chance to sweep back-to-back games there.
The top-ranked Wildcats also have the opportunity to secure the best start in school history if they can get past Southern California on Sunday night.
Arizona is 4-13 in road games against the Pac-12's two L.A. teams since last pulling off a season sweep at USC and UCLA in the 2004-05 season. The Wildcats also have failed to win a conference tournament title the last 10 times it's been played in the city and even lost to Ohio State at Staples Center in last year's NCAA tournament regional semifinals.
A change of fortune in the City of Angels may have begun with Thursday's 79-75 victory over a Bruins team which had won the previous three meetings at home. Arizona (16-0, 3-0) recovered after quickly blowing a 13-point lead in the second half, and Nick Johnson's jumper with 1:27 to go put his team ahead for good.
Arizona sealed the win by going 8 of 10 from the free-throw line. Johnson finished with 22 points and Kaleb Tarczewski had a career-best 16 on 6-of-6 shooting.
"We're undefeated and we'll keep it like that if we can keep churning out wins and not worry about who our opponent is or how special it is, and just play our game," said Johnson, averaging a team-leading 16.4 points.
The only other Wildcats team to start 16-0 came in 1931-32, and this one will try to surpass that mark with only its second win in the last six visits to USC. Arizona has lost three straight there when ranked, including as No. 11 in the nation in an 89-78 loss Feb. 27 as the Trojans shot 61.1 percent - their best performance in five seasons.
The Wildcats did hold USC to 28.1 percent - its lowest in seven seasons - in a 74-50 win in Tucson on Jan. 26, and they've won six of the past eight matchups overall.
The Trojans (9-6, 0-2) would appear more likely to put up a shooting percentage closer to that one after hitting a combined 39.0 percent in its first two conference games, getting beaten by an average of 26.5 points.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller, however, knows his team has to be prepared.
"It's about us being ready. If we're not ready on Sunday, USC will beat us," he said. "It now becomes the next quest, moving from one game to the next."
After a 107-73 drubbing at UCLA last Sunday, the Trojans fell 79-60 to visiting Arizona State on Thursday. They shot a season-low 36.1 percent and were 3 of 17 from 3-point range while ending a nine-game home win streak that started last season against Arizona.
Byron Wesley was USC's only player to score in double figures with 20 points and had a career-high 14 rebounds.
"It's just tough losing. It's a team game. We've all got to pick it up and play better," said Wesley, averaging team highs of 17.5 points and 7.8 boards. "We're still confident. We're not scared of (Arizona)."
Wesley is averaging 21.8 points on 62.3 percent shooting and 10.3 rebounds in the last four games. He had 18 points in last season's win over Arizona.