TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona retired the jersey of former player Jason Terry at halftime.
The program’s current players spent the rest of the night mimicking Terry’s famous jet glide celebration — and there was a lot of celebrating.
Playing like it should against a last-place team, No. 7 Arizona avoided looking ahead to a big showdown this weekend by jumping on Southern California early in an 87-57 rout Thursday night.
On a night of celebrations, Arizona (23-3, 11-2 Pac-12) took care of business quickly, overwhelming the Trojans with a slew of dunks and easy baskets at the rim. The Wildcats, most of them wearing long socks as Terry did from 1995-99, led by 18 at halftime and cruised through the second half for their 35th straight home win.
“It was just a team idea,” Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell said of honoring Terry. “Doing the socks and the celebration after you make a 3, just giving back to him for everything he did for this school.”
Kaleb Tarczewski set the tone early, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the first half while grabbing nine rebounds.
Freshman Stanley Johnson had another solid all-around game, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson played his usual high-energy game, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds.
McConnell was efficient in running the offense, scoring 10 points and dishing out seven assists.
Not a bad way to head into Saturday’s game against the Pac-12’s other power program, UCLA.
“Not perfect basketball, but there were moments when we were really playing well,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
USC (10-16, 2-12) held its own through the opening 10 minutes. Once the Wildcats hit the throttle, the Trojans stood no chance.
USC shot 31 percent, including 5 of 22 from 3-point range, and had a hard time keeping the Wildcats off the glass. Arizona outrebounded the Trojans 50-34, including 22 on the offensive glass.
Malik Martin had 15 points and Julian Jacobs added 13 to lead USC.
“Arizona played well tonight and I thought we played well in portions of the game, but obviously not the entire game,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Arizona has big players and if we want to compete at a high level, we need to be a bit stronger.”
Arizona’s main objective against the young Trojans was to avoid a letdown before the Bruins head into McKale Center.
The Wildcats have already had three unexpected losses to unranked opponents: UNLV, Oregon State and rival Arizona State.
USC entered Thursday’s game with two Pac-12 wins, the latest over Oregon State on Saturday to snap a nine-game losing streak. The Trojans have had trouble finishing games, losing by single digits in five of their past seven.
No need to worry about closing this one out.
USC did manage to keep it close early by knocking down shots, tying the game at 18-all after hitting seven of their first 14 shots.
Then the blowout began.
Overpowering the Trojans inside and getting out on the break after turnovers, Arizona reeled off an 18-4 run to take a 36-22 lead.
Tarczewski did the most damage, throwing down a one-handed dunk over Nikola Jovanovich and a soaring two-hander in transition to score 13 points by halftime.
“He’s always been a good defender, shot blocking and does everything for us, but when his confidence (on offense) is up like that, he’s really tough to stop,” McConnell said.
The Wildcats were at their sharing best, too, with 13 assists — six each by McConnell and Johnson — on their 19 first-half field goals to lead 49-31.
USC missed its first five shots of the second half as Arizona opened with a 12-0 run. The Trojans played well in spurts after that, but never stood a chance with the Wildcats so far ahead.
“We have work to do in some areas,” Enfield said. “We’ve been playing good basketball in the last month, so we just need to learn from this game and be better for Sunday.”
USC: Freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin did not play after injuring his surgically repaired left shoulder last week. … The Trojans made 6 of 25 shots in the second half.
Arizona: Point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright had 11 points after missing the previous four games with a concussion. … Arizona finished with 19 assists on 31 field goals.
USC: At Arizona State on Sunday.
Arizona: Hosts UCLA on Saturday.
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