The Pac-12 conference race is heating and with Arizona sitting at second place, USC is right behind them after a blowout win over crosstown rival UCLA.
USC completely dominated Arizona as Nick Rakocevic scored 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to help the Trojans to a 80-57 victory over the Wildcats Thursday at the Galen Center.
This is the Trojans first win over Arizona since 2016 and its the largest margin of victory over the Wildcats since 1974. USC won its sixth consecutive home game and improved to 4-0 in home conference games this season.
“That was a nice win,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We played very well together once again. Our zone defense was outstanding, we were challenging shots. Anytime you can beat a good team like Arizona, credit to the players and how hard they played.”
The Trojans’ defense was tough throughout the game, holding Arizona to 27.8 percent shooting from the field. USC played 40 minutes of zone defense and Enfield said he has never done that before in his career, but it was working.
USC defeated UCLA and Arizona in back-to-back games for the first time since 2016 when it defeated Arizona 103-101 in four overtimes at home and then won at UCLA 89-75. Prior to that, the last time was the 1982 season.
“Anytime you beat UCLA and Arizona back-to-back is impressive,” Enfield said. “I’m proud how we’ve improved in the last month. We have a long way to go still. We haven’t arrived yet.”
Rakocevic recorded his ninth double-double of the season and Bennie Boatwright added a double-double of his own with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“This is the first time in my career that we’ve beaten Arizona,” Rakocevic said. “We wanted this one. We knew if we played hard and played defense, we’d win. Beating UCLA and Arizona back to back has gotten our momentum going. It has sunk in what needs to be done to win games.”
Kevin Porter Jr. returned to the lineup after missing two games due to suspension and scored 14 points, making three three-pointers.
“Kevin came in and played in the flow of the offense and defense,” Enfield said.”He stepped up and made shots and got to the line. He had a nice game. He needs to continue to improve.”
USC’s next game will be against Arizona State at the Galen Center on Saturday at 5 p.m.