Arizona revamps lineup, runs away from USC for slump-busting win
Tommy Lloyd changed up the lineup hoping to change up Arizona’s sputtering offense and, at least for the night, things were clicking against the USC Trojans in a way we’ve grown to expect a Lloyd offense to.
Cedric Henderson Jr. replaced Pelle Larsson in the starting lineup for the 11th-ranked Wildcats Thursday night. The rotation tightened as backup big man Henri Veesaar didn’t see the floor until garbage time and Adama Bal got just three first-half minutes. Lloyd’s group largely responded.
The Wildcats shot 52% in the first half to build up a 15-point lead at the break. They knocked down 12 triples for the game — the most in a game for the UA since Dec. 13 — and cruised to an 81-66 win over USC.
Courtney Ramey scored a game-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting (all of them 3s). Azuolas Tubelis added 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Oumar Ballo pitched in 12 points and seven boards while Henderson provided 11 points and seven boards. Larsson, moving back to the sixth-man role he thrived in last season, responded with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
It was Henderson’s first double-digit scoring performance since before Christmas. It was the best scoring performance for Larsson since Arizona’s win over Tennessee on Dec. 17.
Lloyd said after the game the lineup shift wasn’t a demotion. Arizona’s bench needed a boost. Larsson provided some consistency to that second unit.
Arizona jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead and the lead just kept growing.
USC scored six straight to open the second half to get the margin in single digits, but back-to-back triples from Henderson broke things open once again. Twice in the second half, Arizona’s lead pushed north of 20.
Following a humbling experience in Eugene over the weekend, Arizona (16-3, 5-3 Pac-12) needed the performance it got Thursday night. Now, attention quickly shifts to No. 5 UCLA, which comes to McKale Center on Saturday for an 11 a.m. PT matchup on ABC.
Drew Peterson led the Trojans with 15 points, but 11 of those came in the first half and he fouled out with six minutes to play. Boogie Ellis struggled with his shot all evening, notching 11 points on 11 shots to go with four turnovers. No one else reached double-digits as USC shot just 37% for the game — its worst shooting night since Nov. 15.
The Trojans (13-6, 5-3 Pac-12) head to Tempe on Saturday to battle the red-hot Arizona State Sun Devils (7 p.m. PT, ESPNU).