It took sixty minutes of hoops, but finally a winner emerged in the first four-overtime thriller of the season.
USC got an important, signature win at home over No. 7 Arizona 103-101 in a marathon that finally got a result when Elijah Stewart knocked down two free throws after being fouled on a jump shot with 23 seconds left. The Wildcats struggled to initiate an offensive set on the ensuing possession, resulting in a bad Kadeem Allen 3-point attempt as time expired. Stewart led the way for the Trojans throughout the contest, scoring 27 points off the bench, including five 3-pointers.
This one probably could have ended before the overtimes even began, too. USC led by 12 with 5:38 remaining in regulation, but it was in both of these teams’ DNA to make this one end up the way it did. After all, the Wildcats came back from a double-digit deficit with three minutes left against UCLA to tie earlier in the week, and the Trojans were coming off of a game where Washington came back from a 22-point deficit to actually pick up the win. The Wildcats used pretty terrific defense in the second half and overtimes to get back into the game as the Trojans struggled offensively. Also, Kaleb Tarczewski had a trio of stellar tip-ins to keep the Wildcats in the game on his way to 16 points and 12 rebounds.
But it just wasn’t enough, as the back-and-forth overtime periods eventually led to USC picking up a massive win for its program.
And let’s not mistake that. This is a huge win for the Trojans, who are now 3-1 in the Pac-12 and in a great position at 14-3 to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Andy Enfield. It’s their sixth top-100 win of the season per KenPom, too, so the schedule even hasn’t been bad. They’re on the road for their next three against potential NCAA Tournament teams, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can handle that as well as they have the rest of their schedule.
For the Wildcats, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the 1-2 start in conference play. All three games have been on the road against potential NCAA Tournament teams, and the two losses have come on a tremendous Bryce Alford game-winner and in a 4OT thriller. Plus, few teams are doing damage on the road as it is, as the league overall is 6-11 away from home with no team possessing two road wins. Arizona is still as good a bet as any in this deep Pac-12 to win the league even with their rough defensive play and overall point guard issues.