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Trojans fall in standings

February 13, 2009|Chris Foster

TUCSON — Arizona's Nic Wise pump-faked. USC's Daniel Hackett took the bait, leaving his feet. Wise regrouped and sank a three-point shot.

Hackett dashed up court, pushed through the lane. The ball came lose, giving possession back to Arizona. So went the game of Wildcat and mouse Thursday night.

The McKale Center was full of such moments during Arizona's 83-76 victory over USC. The effect was a juggling of the Pacific 10 Conference standings.

"They hit a big shot, we have a turnover," said USC's Dwight Lewis, who scored 17 second-half points and finished with 21. "This conference is so competitive one win can change every thing."

It did Thursday, as the Trojans slipped into sixth place, half a game behind Arizona.

Wise's three-pointer with 45 seconds left put the Wildcats ahead, 79-76.

Hackett, who had pushed and shoved the Trojans to rally from a 18-point deficit in the first half, turned the ball over on USC's next possession. Lewis missed a three-pointer the next time the Trojans had the ball.

Arizona (17-8, 7-5) made its free throws and had its sixth consecutive victory.

The Trojans (15-8, 6-5), who were half a game out of first place a week ago, now have back-to-back losses to UCLA and Arizona heading into Sunday's matchup at No. 18 Arizona State.

"We talked this week, that it would be great to come [to Arizona] and get one victory," USC Coach Tim Floyd said. "To get two would have been terrific. If we lost two, was not going to end anything. There are a lot of games left."

As a working model, Floyd can use Arizona, as the eulogies were about to start here a little more than a month ago after the Wildcats opened conference play at 2-5.

This desert stop has been anything but an oasis for opposing teams for two decades. Not much had changed.

The arena was loud. The fans were righteously indignant at every call that went USC's way. The band played on. The Wildcats, though, had slipped, falling from national prominence -- at least that was the perception.

But Arizona seems to have found the path to extend the nation's longest active streak of NCAA appearances to 24.

"You have to credit Arizona, they made big plays," Floyd said. "Their crowd gave them a big lift. I was proud of our guys. I thought we grew from the UCLA game.

"We're going to try to grow again Sunday."

The Trojans could take solace in their own grit.

They could have folded early, as they did against UCLA, after Arizona made its first eight shots, including five three-pointers. The Wildcats were eight of nine on three-pointers, with Wise's shot giving them a 33-15 lead with 9:34 left in the half.

"My God, they hit everything," said USC's DeMar DeRozan, who scored 13 of the Trojans' first 15 points. "That's the advantage you have when you play at home. You just feel like everything you put up is going to go in."

Still, USC trailed only, 41-38, at halftime.

The second half was the type of game the Trojans have prevailed in over the last month, winning five like it. This time, they couldn't manage the game.

USC was called for offensive fouls on consecutive possessions while leading by eight points in the second half.

Meanwhile, Wise (27 points) and Chase Budinger (25) carved up the Trojans, scoring the Wildcats' last 17 points.


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