Men’s basketball prepares for Arizona trip

first_imgThe 56-52 win against Utah showed that the Trojans can win low-scoring games thanks to their top-tier defense, which ranks third in the conference in blocked shots and top-five in points allowed per game, opposing rebounding totals and opposing field goal percentage. USC will need to continue to win gritty games to boost its resume for the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments that are fast approaching. The Trojans are at their best when these two start to heat up. The duo combined for 29 points on 70.6% shooting from the field in a 20-point win at Oregon State a couple of weeks ago.  Although the Trojans have lost nine straight games in Tucson, the squad is 7-2 away from Galen Center this season and has seemed to be largely unaffected by hostile environments. “We feel very comfortable on the road,” head coach Andy Enfield said after practice Monday, per the Orange County Register. “It’s hard to explain. This team is different than some previous teams. But you can say that if you go into Arizona and you don’t play well, it’s going to be a long night.” For the offense to be at full strength, Okongwu needs to be involved early and often. As teams focus their defensive efforts on stopping him from getting the ball down low, ball movement and outside shooting will be pivotal. Led by elite freshmen such as guards Nico Mannion and Josh Green and forward Zeke Nnaji, the Wildcats play at a high pace, leading the Pac-12 in scoring and coming in at third in 3-point shooting. USC will need a big scoring night from senior guard Jonah Mathews and sophomore guard Elijah Weaver to match that production.  USC and Arizona will tip off Thursday at 6 p.m. at McKale Center. Freshman guard Ethan Anderson has continued to showcase his explosiveness through his acrobatic layups and dunks all season. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan)center_img Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu will be tested early and will try to stop Nnaji, who leads the Wildcats in scoring, rebounds, blocked shots and field goal percentage. The two have eerily similar stats, with both hovering at around 16.5 points per game on 61% shooting to go along with nine rebounds per game. Nnaji has a few inches on Okongwu, but the Trojan has proved his defensive prowess all season. Expect this matchup to be competitive and one that could heavily alter the course of the game. Coming off a tough home loss against No. 20 Colorado, the USC men’s basketball team, which has won 11 of its last 14, will look to rebound against No. 23 Arizona in Tucson Thursday. The Wildcats will challenge USC defensively after sweeping their two-game Washington road trip against Washington and Washington State. “We’re not going to be able to just get the ball to [Okongwu] in the post,” freshman guard Ethan Anderson said. “No team’s going to just sit there and let that happen. So we’re going to have to [make] five to six passes around, make somebody else attack and they’ll have to leave [Okongwu to defend] a layup and then get it to [Okongwu].” Sophomore guard Elijah Weaver has averaged 11.3 points per game in his last three Pac-12 contests. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) Crashing the boards hard will also be pivotal, as USC and Arizona rank first and second respectively in the Pac-12 in rebounds per game. Arizona struggled mightily with rebounding earlier in the season but has since turned it into a strength during conference play.  They also scored a combined 18 points on 30.4% shooting from the field in the 21-point loss to Colorado. If they can’t get going Thursday, keeping up with the Wildcats won’t be easy. last_img

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