No. 5 Arizona basketball closes regular season with loss to USC, enters Pac-12 Tournament as top seed

Mar 9, 2024, 10:16 PM | Updated: 11:17 pm

Arizona forward Keshad Johnson...

Arizona forward Keshad Johnson (16) grabs a rebound over Southern California forward Kijani Wright (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 9, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

No. 5 Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball closed out its final Pac-12 regular season with a 78-65 upset loss to USC on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Arizona (24-7, 15-5) had already wrapped up the final Pac-12 regular season title outright after defeating UCLA on Thursday, so the Wildcats will start their Pac-12 Tournament run in Las Vegas Thursday at noon against the winner of the 8-seed (Washington) versus the 9-seed (USC). Arizona enters the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in its sights.

The Wildcats finished one game ahead of Washington State, who defeated Arizona twice this season.

They endured an off night offensively with their lowest-scoring effort of the season while shooting 38.7% from the floor. Eighteen turnovers didn’t help.

They still were not out of it until late, though. Arizona went on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to six on a transition dunk from Oumar Ballo with 6:11 remaining. But USC handled the run and held onto a multiple-possession lead to close out the Wildcats. The Trojans closed the game on an 11-6 run.

USC’s defense held Pac-12 player of the year candidate Caleb Love to a season-worst 2 points on 1-of-10 shooting. He missed all six of his 3-point attempts in only his second single-digit scoring effort of the season. His backcourt running mate Kylan Boswell shot 2-for-9.

Ballo and Keshad Johnson led Arizona with 17 points each. Ballo added 10 rebounds, his 16th double-double of the year.

USC shot 49% and won the second half 44-35. DJ Rodman and Kobe Johnson scored 19 points each.

With leading scorer Boogie Ellis having an off night offensively, USC got big efforts from Johnson, Rodman and freshman Isaiah Collier, who finished with 16 points and five assists. Ellis had five points on 1-of-8 shooting.

USC ended a six-game skid against the Wildcats, who beat the Trojans 82-67 in Tucson in January. It was third-year Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd’s first loss to USC in six games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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