Arizona defeats USC in Pac-12 Championship, earns automatic bid

Mar 10, 2018, 10:16 PM | Updated: 10:57 pm
Arizona's Rawle Alkins, right, defends on a shot by Southern California's Jordan McLaughlin during ...
Arizona's Rawle Alkins, right, defends on a shot by Southern California's Jordan McLaughlin during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Pac-12 men's tournament final Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Deandre Ayton recorded his 23rd double-double of the season to lead Arizona to a 75-61 win over USC and Pac-12 Tournament championship.

The Wildcats trailed the Trojans by three at halftime after committing eight first-half turnovers, but tightened up the ball handling after the break and punished USC down low with a 42-19 rebounding advantage.

Arizona took the lead 39-37 midway through the second half following a clever steal by Parker Jackson-Cartwright, which led to a reverse layup by Allonzo Trier. From there the teams traded baskets until Arizona was finally able to pull away, never trailing again for the rest of the game.

A buzzer-beating three by Jackson-Cartwright and back-to-back two-handed power dunks by Rawle Alkins and Ayton extended the Arizona lead to 53-46 forcing a USC timeout.

From there, Ayton took over the game with several dunks and the Wildcats were able to hit their free throws to ice the game. His 32-point, 18-rebound double-double tied the Pac-12 freshman record for double-doubles set by UCLA’s Kevin Love.

USC’s Chimezie Metu played most of the second half battling foul trouble. The forward still managed to pester the Wildcats all night registering four steals on the defensive end of the floor.

Nick Rakocevic led USC with 13 points on the night.

With the win, Arizona earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament where most experts have the Wildcats as a 3-seed.

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