No.17 Southern California had been riding a seven-game winning streak coming into its Pac-12 matchup with the Arizona Wildcats.
The Trojans battled but ultimately lost the margin on the glass and saw its win streak come to an end, falling to the Wildcats 82-71 on Saturday afternoon at the Galen Center.
Arizona (15-8, 9-8 Pac-12) head coach Sean Miller recorded his 300th win in program history, easily being the team’s best win of the season.
“We’ve been in some really tough games recently and just weren’t good enough to leave with a victory,” Miller said. “Tonight, we were able to go from start to finish. It says a lot about our group of guys that they continue to fight.”
USC (18-4, 12-3) was outrebounded 43-36 on the glass and failed to recapture a lead in the final 32 minutes of play with Arizona steady in control.
The Trojans trailed 37-31 at halftime and were unable to overcome its deficiencies from the free throw line, shooting only 13 of 22 for 59.1 percent while the Wildcats shot 82.6.
“We didn’t play our best game,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
“There’s a certain mentality you have to have against a team as talented and physical as Arizona,” added Enfield.
Projected NBA lottery pick and freshman 7-footer, Evan Mobley finished with 23 points and five rebounds, Senior guard Tahj Eaddy added 17 points before fouling out late for the Trojans.
James Akinjo had 20 points and 7 assists, while Azuolas Tubelis had 16 points and 15 rebounds and Jordan Brown added 19 and 13 off the bench in 29 minutes of play.
“They’re just as big as us and another top rebounding team,” said Mobley on the Wildcats big men. “A lot of times we’d go up and tip around and other guys would come down with the rebound.”
The Trojans got as close as five late in the second half, but the Wildcats then used a 7-0 run to extend its lead to 67-55 after Kerr Kriisa buried a three-pointer followed by a dunk by Christian Koloko with 6:09 remaining.
“I don’t think entirely we played soft, but in certain possessions we weren’t as tough as we could have been, especially to start the game,” Eaddy said. “They got too many offensive rebounds that gave them confidence and allowed the momentum to carry throughout the game.”
Arizona then went on to make 14 of 16 free throws in the final 5 1/2 minutes, using the charity stripe to ultimately put the game away.
The Trojans lost their first game in a month, 81-72 to the Wildcats and will next prepare to host Oregon (14-4, 9-3) on Monday, Feb. 23, only before traveling to face Colorado (17-7, 11-6) on Thursday, Feb. 25.
“Every game is going to be a tough game no matter who you’re playing,” Mobley said. “We just have to bring it from the start in every single game.”