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Jan 16, 2024 12:47 pm

No. 12 Arizona seeks better than ‘average’ effort vs. USC

Arizona spent two weeks at No. 1 in the polls in December, but the Wildcats have fallen to No. 12 and are “an average basketball team” as they head into Wednesday’s game against Southern California in Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona (12-4, 3-2 Pac-12) has lost four of its past eight games, including a 73-70 defeat at Washington State on Saturday.

“What I see is an average basketball team that has these really high moments and then they relax. That’s what I see,” Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd said.

“So, we’ve got to figure that out as a coaching staff. (Maybe) that’s shaking up the lineup. I mean, these are all things I’ve got to think about, changing what we do. But everything’s on the table.”

While the Wildcats are struggling, the Trojans (8-9, 2-4) are in freefall after starting the season ranked No. 21. They arrive on a two-game skid, having lost at home to Washington State and at Colorado.

USC was missing three starters against the Buffaloes — leading scorer Boogie Ellis (hamstring), point guard and top assist man Isaiah Collier (hand) and leading shot blocker Joshua Morgan (illness).

Collier is out four to six weeks, according to the school, after suffering the injury Jan. 10. The statuses for Ellis (18.7 points per game) and Morgan (2.3 blocks per game) were uncertain as of Monday. A week ago, coach Andy Enfield said Ellis was playing “at about 60 percent.” Morgan has missed the past two games.

The injuries created an opportunity for freshman Bronny James to make his first career start, but he was a non-factor as the Trojans managed just 58 points on 36.1 percent shooting without their usual starting backcourt. James was 0 of 7 from the field, with one assist in 25 minutes against Colorado.

Perhaps look for more of Oziyah Sellers, a sophomore guard who came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points against the Buffs.

“We need that type of production off of our bench. He played really well,” Enfield said. “He played very hard and smart, very proud of him.”

If Arizona makes any changes to its lineup, the likely spot is at point guard. Kylan Boswell has had moments of brilliance, but he also has disappeared at times, including at Washington State where he had no points, rebounds, assists or steals in 25 minutes.

Boswell, a sophomore, could cede more time — or his starting role — to Jaden Bradley.

“Kylan just didn’t have that look tonight, and he’s got to figure that out,” Lloyd said after the WSU game. “I don’t care how old he is (18); he’s good enough to play well on the road and he hasn’t. So, he needs to figure that out.”

None of the Wildcats’ effort issues have shown up at home, where they are 8-0.

Caleb Love is scoring in bunches wherever he plays, averaging a team-best 18.3 points per game. The four other starters average double-digit points for a team that is scoring 91.2 per game.

Love has scored at least 20 points in seven of the past nine games and is taking the bulk of the “big moment” shots for Arizona.

“Caleb’s a competitive guy,” Lloyd said. “When we get to those moments, he’s not afraid to shoulder the burden.”

–Field Level Media

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