The Trojans fall to the Wildcats, 70-49, in Pac-12 Quarterfinals

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
USC's season come to an end after falling to Arizona in the Pac-12 Quarterfinals. It was USC's final game in the Pac-12 Conference.

LAS VEGAS– The USC Trojans advanced to the quarterfinals after defeating the Washington Huskies twice in the last two weeks. They attempted to do the same against Arizona after beating the Wildcats last Saturday at the Galen Center but their season came to an end Thursday after a 70-49 loss in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Tough start for the Trojans 

Playing a top-5 team twice in five days can be a difficult task, but it becomes easier when you beat them for the first time. USC’s season has not gone as expected due to injuries and illness. However, since Collier returned from injury, the Trojans have shown significant improvement. USC has won six out of their last eight games entering today’s game. 

Boogie Ellis attempted to take control of the game offensively but failed to find consistency as he only made 2 of 9 shots in the first half. Isaiah Collier also struggled to take the ball to the basket, losing possession three times. Collier did not manage to provide any assists in the first half. Andy Enfield has transformed this team into a contender late in the season, but the Trojans struggled to score points towards the end of the first half. The Wildcats managed to take a 28-16 lead into the locker room.

On Saturday, USC’s defense shut down Caleb Love, who was the player of the year in the Pac-12, as he scored only two points in their loss. However, on Thursday, Love had no trouble getting started against the Trojans and made two timely three-pointers. Oumar Ballo was also impressive in both protecting the paint and contributing to the offense, scoring seven points and grabbing seven rebounds. Arizona outperformed USC in rebounds, with 26 total rebounds compared to the Trojans’ 17. The Wildcats’ defense was strong, holding USC to only 23.3% shooting from the field and 2-12 from beyond the arc. USC did not score any fast-break points, while Arizona secured 10. Additionally, USC was only allowed to attempt one free throw in the first half, while Arizona attempted 11.

Not the second half USC expected 

In a crucial knockout game for both teams, Ellis fouled out of his final game as a Trojan during the second half. Despite his efforts, he only managed to score six points and grab four rebounds, while making just two field goals. Unfortunately, the Trojans couldn’t find their rhythm in the second half, which made it difficult for them to keep up with Arizona. To make matters worse, the USC bench failed to contribute much to the game, with Bronny James being the only player to score, sinking just one three-pointer throughout the entire game. James played for 22 minutes off the bench. 

The Wildcats’ coaching staff did their homework and managed to prevent the Trojans from taking two games from them within a five-day span. Unfortunately, Collier got started a little too late, finishing with 13 points on 6 of 13 field goals in 37 minutes. However, Kobe Johnson was the most efficient player for the Trojans as he led the team with 14 points, making 6 of 10 shots, and collecting 8 rebounds in the 70-49 loss.

Joshua Morgan finished with seven points and four rebounds, while DJ Rodman played for 33 minutes and scored six points and five rebounds in their last games as Trojans. The Trojans’ defense was unable to keep the Wildcats at bay. Love scored 11 points in 33 minutes and Ballo scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while playing just 27 minutes. KJ Lewis played for 20 minutes off the bench, scoring the highest points for the team at 15 and also having 6 rebounds, which helped the Wildcats win against the Trojans.

The end of the season

Several players from the Trojans team have played their final games as Trojans, marking the end of an era for USC basketball. In the absence of these players, a new era of USC basketball is set to begin. USC’s team leader, Ellis, has played a vital role over the past few seasons. But with Ellis leaving, the future of the team now rests on the decision of current freshman, Isaiah Collier, who must decide whether he will continue to play for the Trojans or leave for the NBA.

It seems that both Collier and James are thinking about leaving USC to play in the NBA. Enfield was cautious with James this season due to his medical condition. But once he was cleared to play, Enfield still hesitated to give James the role he expected. However, when Collier and Ellis were out due to injuries, James stepped up as a starter and impressed everyone with his scoring and passing skills. Now, James has to make the biggest decision of his life so far. He will only consider leaving USC if a team shows interest in drafting him. He still has time to announce his decision. 

Enfield has just finished his 11th season at USC. He now ranks third on USC’s all-time wins list, following Sam Barry and Forrest Twogood. USC may need to consider whether they should bring him back for his 12th season or move in another direction. The Trojans ended the year with a record of 15-18 and 8-12 in the final year of the Pac-12 Conference. They bid farewell to the Pac-12 and will now be joining the Big Ten