USC basketball had its most impressive victory of the season Wednesday night at the Galen Center over number 11 ranked Arizona. There is just one little problem for the Trojans, they helped out the Bruins—Big Time.
The Trojans won 89-78. Yes that’s right, the Trojans scored 89 points. Kevin O’Neill’s team would be lucky to score that many points in a weekend, not in a single game, especially against the number 11 team in the nation and co-conference leader. But it stands to say that the Bob Cantu “experiment” has been a success. And this particular step of the experiment could have secured Cantu a head coaching gig in downtown LA next season.
The Trojans are celebrating not just that they won a game, which would have been a worthy celebration last season. They are celebrating that this is the best win of their season. They have more than 1 to choose from. 8 in conference to be exact. This particular victory just caught my attention because, well, it was so unexpected.
But back to the problem for the Trojans—two games in a row the Trojans helped out their cross town rivals. The Trojans had the opportunity to put the Bruins in a major hole when they played head to head at the Galen Center Sunday. But the Bruins took a big first half lead all the way to the final buzzer. It’s quite a success to beat the Wildcats, but USC gifted the Bruins a big leg up. Rather than being a half game behind the Wildcats going into Saturday’s matchup featured on ESPN’s College GameDay, the Bruins now have a half game lead after they escaped the Sun Devils with an overtime victory at the New Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday.
After UCLA turned the tables on the Trojans in football this past fall, the Trojans had the same opportunity in basketball. They were on their way to that feat when they surprised the Bruins and embarrassed them in their first meeting at Pauley. But after these two disappointing games for the Trojans (yes, a disappointing win against Arizona) the Bruins are at an advantage in the conference race going into Saturdays matchup. They still need Oregon to help them out if they want to win the conference outright, but they are in a much better position than they figured to be going into Wednesday’s games.
Bob Cantu had a lot to gain by winning against Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats, but USC stood to gain very little really. They aren’t going to make the NCAAs (barring an improbable conference tourney victory). They could have been an NIT team without that win. But the players must really like playing for Cantu, or they wouldn’t have rallied together to get the impressive win.
Eric Wise lead the team with 22 points on 9-12 shooting. The 4 other Trojans in double figures were Byron Wesley, JT Terrell, Jio Fontan, and Aaron Fuller. Even though the Wildcats are a big, athletic team in the interior, USC out rebounded them by a margin of nearly 10 in the game, 33 to 23. It bears repeating that the Trojans scored 89 points, and that miracle was conjured up on 61% shooting from the field.
The Wildcats have 2 games to play: at UCLA on Saturday, and then their rivalry game against the Sun Devils. After this weekend’s games, the LA schools play the Washington schools on the road to round out the conference schedule. The Bruins have not showed the consistency to make anyone believe they have this locked up. But before Saturday’s matchup, USC gifted them the edge.