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USC upsets No. 11-ranked Arizona

Trojans shoot well, with Eric Wise scoring 22 points, and upset Pac-12's powerful Wildcats, 89-78.

February 27, 2013|By Diane Pucin

There are these times when J.T. Terrell makes a three-pointer smoothly in the rhythm of the offense, when Dewayne Dedmon slams down the basketball off a pass from Eric Wise, when Jio Fontan drives to the basket and makes the layup, when USC takes a 13-point lead on the 11th-ranked team in the country.

And then there are other times, back-to-back-to-back turnovers, layups missed after sneaky steals, blown defensive assignments that let the opponent make three-pointers without a Trojan in sight, and USC almost gives away the lead.

There were more good times than bad for USC on Wednesday night, though. The Trojans upset 11th-ranked Arizona, 89-78, at the Galen Center.

In their first meeting of the season, Arizona (23-5, 11-5 in Pac-12 Conference play) had beaten USC (13-15, 8-7) by 24 points, 74-50.

Wise, who finished with a game-high 22 points, said there was no explanation for such an unlikely turnaround. "If you can figure it out, let me know," he said. Wise, a senior, made nine of his 12 shots.

Solomon Hill, a senior from Fairfax High in Los Angeles, led the Wildcats with 21 points.

When the clock hit zero, a majority of USC students at the game rushed onto the court and lifted several of the Trojans into the air. It's been that kind of season.

"This was a tremendous victory for our team and our program," said Bob Cantu, USC's interim head coach. "Arizona is a team that could be in the Final Four."

Arizona Coach Sean Miller seemed less impressed with his team. "We have picked and chosen at times our effort level," Miller said. "The thing is, we are just not that good."

Cantu stated something else. "We shot the ball really, really well," he said. The Trojans made 33 of 54 shots. That's 61.1% from the field.

"We wanted to play our best basketball closer to [the Pac-12] tournament," Cantu said. "A win like this means everything. If you can beat Arizona, you can beat anybody."

USC took its largest lead of the first half, 42-32, when Aaron Fuller put a rebound down with 1 minute 21 seconds left. The Trojans didn't score again before the break.

Mark Lyons hit a couple of free throws and Hill scored on a layup with 49.6 seconds left and the Wildcats trailed by only 42-36 at halftime.

It was the Trojans who started the second half well and quickly.

There was a Dedmon dunk, a Fontan layup, a Terrell three-pointer, a 51-38 lead. But when Jordin Mayes (from Westchester High) hit a three-pointer for Arizona with 12:20 left in the game, the Wildcats were within four points, 60-56.

USC, though, had another good session, capped by a Terrell three-pointer that gave the Trojans a 69-58 advantage with 9:49 left. They never lost the lead.

Wise said the good start to the second half was crucial.

"It was everything," he said. "It seems like we always have leads and then give them back."

As for being swallowed up by the court-rushing students, Wise said, "I didn't even know they were going to rush it. It was great."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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