[January 13, 2014]LOS ANGELES — Arizona point guard T.J.
McConnell heard Southern California players daring him to shoot Sunday.
He made them eat their words.
McConnell scored a season-high 19 points and tied a career high
with five 3-pointers, and the top-ranked Wildcats overran Southern
California in the second half for a 73-53 Pac-12 victory at the
Galen Center on Sunday.
"If they don't think I can shoot, I'm going to try to prove them
wrong," said McConnell, a junior who played his first two seasons at
Duquesne. "And when they tried to close in, I'll got around them and
try to get people the ball."
Arizona (17-0, 4-0 Pac-12) set a school record for consecutive
victories to open the season, breaking a tie with the 1931-32 team.
The Wildcats remain one of four undefeated teams in NCAA Division I.
"We're really excited about it," Miller said of the record 17-0
start. "This is something that all of us will cherish, because any
school record you break at Arizona in the basketball program is a
real record because of the great tradition that we have.
"We have a lot of pride in what we have done. Like I've said before,
if it's the No. 1 ranking or winning as many games as the start of
the season, it's not as if it is the end goal. This is our path."
McConnell's previous season high was 13 points, but he took
advantage of a sagging USC 2-3 zone defense to make five 3-pointers,
tying a career high. He was 7-for-12 from the field, including
5-for-7 on 3-pointers. He entered having made eight of 30 3-point
attempts this season.
"They went to the zone, and I knew I was going to be open, and I got
hot tonight," McConnell said. "Credit to my teammates to get me the
ball. (The shots) were falling tonight. It's about time. I haven't
been hitting them in a while."
Wildcats forward Brandon Ashley had a season-high 19 points, one
short of his career high of 20 set against Long Beach State last
season. He found his way into open pockets of the Trojans' zone for
mid-range jumper shots, and he finished 7-for-10 from the field.
"We've faced a lot of zones," Ashley said. "We are starting to build
that comfort level in the zone. Being able to find open guys is
something we are developing."
Guard Nick Johnson scored 15 points, and forward Aaron Gordon had 12
points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats, who limited USC to nine
field goals and forced 12 turnovers in the second half to break open
what was a three-point game at halftime.
USC (9-7, 0-3) posted a season-low point total. The Trojans lost
their opening three Pac-12 games to UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona
by 34, 19 and 20 points, respectively.
"Arizona wore us down a bit," first-year USC coach Andy
Enfield said. "Arizona played a very good second half. We
definitely turned the ball over too many times and had too many
possessions where we didn't score. Against a good team like
Arizona, you have to convert."
Guard Byron Wesley had 18 points for the Trojans, breaking his
streak of four 20-point games. Forward Strahinja Gavrilovic had
"We played really good basketball for 35 minutes but took some
bad shots and had bad turnovers that caused us to lose,"
Ashley's 18-footer gave Arizona a 50-43 lead with 8:29
remaining, and the Wildcats gradually pulled away. McConnell
added a 10-foot floater from the lane and his fourth 3-pointer
for a 55-45 edge.
His last 3-pointer with 1:46 left made it 66-49.
McConnell also had four rebounds and six assists, right on his
assist average for the season.
"I think he (McConnell) is focused so much on getting his
teammates involved and doing so many of the other things for his
team that it is not always easy to make a 3," Miller said.
"We've talked to him the last couple of weeks to just take the
one that presents itself."
NOTES: Arizona received a verbal commitment Friday from highly
ranked SG Tyler Dorsey, a junior at Bellflower (Calif.) St. John
Bosco High. Dorsey tweeted his commitment after his Friday game
that was attended by Arizona coach Sean Miller. Dorsey is ranked
as the seventh-best recruit in the 2015 class. ... Arizona
improved to 5-13 in road games against UCLA and USC since
2004-05, the last time it sweep the Los Angeles schools on the
road before this week. ... USC played its first game against a
No. 1 team since Feb. 19, 2004, when it lost 76-67 to Stanford.
... Arizona is the first Pac-12 team to be ranked No. 1 since
UCLA in the ninth week of the 2006-07 season.