Arizona Wildcats vs. Southern California Trojans Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

LAS VEGAS — Sixth-ranked Arizona enters the Pac-12 tournament as the No. 1 seed and possesses plenty of motivation as it heads into a quick rematch against ninth-seeded Southern California on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

The Wildcats (24-7) have redemption on their minds after turning in one of their worst performances of the season Saturday at USC (15-17). The Trojans won 78-65, forcing 18 turnovers and holding Arizona to 38.7 percent shooting from the field.

“We just didn’t seem to have great rhythm on offense all day, so we’re going to give USC credit on defense,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We never got a rhythm. So that’s something we’ve got to take a look at and figure out.”

USC, which advanced in the Pac-12 tournament with an 80-74 victory over eighth-seeded Washington on Wednesday, gets outstanding guard play from Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Collier and has the length to help neutralize Arizona’s strong inside game.

The Trojans’ Kobe Johnson said his team’s physicality was the key factor in the Saturday win at Los Angeles.

“I think we came into that game very physical and we matched their pressure,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve got to come out, just apply the pressure and physicality to them right away because I felt like last game, we did a perfect job shutting down their best players with physicality. As long as we do that, we’ll be in a good spot to do it again.”

Arizona’s Caleb Love, who was announced as the Pac-12 Player of the Year on Tuesday, managed just two points on 1-of-10 shooting at USC. Pelle Larsson, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, scored five points and committed five turnovers before fouling out.

Love, who is averaging 18.7 points per game, will look to bounce back.

“We were flying around in our zone and our man defense and we rebounded the ball,” USC coach Andy Enfield said of the Saturday meeting. “I think it should be a great game (Thursday). But we just have to play with tremendous energy like we did on Saturday.”

Lloyd, who is 85-18 in three seasons at Arizona and has never lost back-to-back games, said his team might have been in an emotional lull Saturday after clinching the conference regular-season title two nights earlier at UCLA.

Will the focus be different as the Wildcats aim for their third consecutive Pac-12 tournament title?

“If I knew how to make sure we didn’t have a night like this, I would probably have won 25 national championships by now,” Lloyd said Saturday.

“But I don’t know. That’s the hard thing, you have to help your team through those moments. … Hopefully we’ll learn from it and it’ll help prepare for what’s coming next.”

USC, which lost at Arizona 82-67 on Jan. 17, has been playing better than its record indicates after getting healthier late in the season. The Trojans have won four games in a row and five of their past six.

Ellis scored 25 points Wednesday against Washington, making 5 of 10 3-point attempts.

–Anthony Gimino, Field Level Media

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