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Sixth-ranked Arizona rolls past USC 70-49 in Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Arizona went to USC and lost by 13 points just five days before meeting the Trojans in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals.

The outcome this time was considerably different.

KJ Lewis led a balanced scoring attack with 15 points and sixth-ranked Arizona rolled past the Trojans 70-49 Thursday.

Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd called the loss to USC “a gift” during the week and re-asserted that after this game.

“Late in the year, we were playing pretty good,” Lloyd said. “We'd wrapped up the (regular season) Pac-12 championship and maybe we let our guard down a little bit and got exposed and our guys battled. It's kind of nice when you can have a week of preparation when you're on edge a little bit, and I think it sets up well. But you know what, (Friday) whatever time we play, you've got to be ready to roll.”

The top-seeded Wildcats (25-7) play fourth-seeded Oregon (21-11) on Friday night after the Ducks defeated UCLA 68-66. Arizona is two victories from becoming the first three-peat Pac-12 champion since the Wildcats won four straight in 1988-90 and 2002. There were no conference tournaments between 1991-2001.

Ninth-seeded USC ended its season at 15-18. The Trojans' four-game winning streak also came to a halt.

Jaden Bradley scored 12 points for Arizona. Pac-12 player of the year Caleb Love, who scored two points in the previous meeting with USC, finished with 11, Oumar Ballo posted his 17th double-double this season with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Pelle Larsson had 10 points.

Kobe Johnson led USC with 14 points, Isaiah Collier scored 13 and the Trojans shot just 35.7%.

“A lot of shots that went in for us last Saturday just didn't fall today,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We just didn't convert when we had open looks, and also we were off balance too much when we got into the lane.”

Arizona dominated in nearly every way, beating USC in rebounds (44-30), second-chance points (19-4), bench points (32-3) and transition points (16-2).

“When you play a team back to back, you can learn from your previous mistakes,” Ballo said. “You can't do the same mistakes over and over again, and that got us last week. We got a great test to see how much we improved, and we take pride in getting stop after stop.”

The Wildcats remained perfect under Lloyd in the Pac-12 Tournament at 7-0. They also are 10-1 under his watch in Las Vegas, the lone setback a 96-95 double-overtime loss to then-No. 14 Florida Atlantic in December.

USC beat Arizona 78-65 to close the regular season, but Lloyd kept his Wildcats record of never having lost back-to-back games intact.

“We were way more hungry on defense this time around,” Larsson said. “We're obviously a really good offensive team, but it's defense we take pride in.”

Arizona broke open a close game late in the first half by going on a 12-2 run to take a 28-16 lead. The Trojans didn't score over the final 5:49.

USC finally ended the drought 11 seconds into the second half, but that did little to slow Arizona, which led by as many as 24 points.

“You're going to think this is crazy,” Lloyd said. “We didn't do one thing different (from Saturday). We did it better.”

BIG PICTURE

USC: Enfield called this season “challenging” given the boatload of injuries that hit his team. When finally healthy, the Trojans showed they were among the Pac-12's more talented teams, winning six of eight before Thursday with a pair of three-point losses. The question for USC isn't about this season, however. Can Enfield put together a team capable of competing in the Big Ten Conference?

Arizona: There were questions about how motivated the Wildcats would be after sleep-walking through the prior loss to USC and entering the tournament with little at stake. They figure to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, almost regardless of what happens this week. Arizona was focused from the beginning, and if the Wildcats can maintain that the next two days, it's difficult to imagine anyone beating them.

UP NEXT

Top-seeded Arizona will face fourth-seeded Oregon in a semifinal matchup on Friday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball