Advertisement

USC downs No. 5 Arizona 78-65 behind 19 points each from DJ Rodman and Kobe Johnson

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With a rollercoaster regular season behind them, the Southern California Trojans are finally rolling in March — the way many thought they would all along.

DJ Rodman and Kobe Johnson scored 19 points each in a 78-65 victory over No. 5 Arizona on Saturday night, giving the Trojans their first three-game winning streak of the season.

“To be able to win this game at this time of year, especially with the season we had, I feel like this is exactly what we needed,” Johnson said. “This is the perfect boost to get us going into the Pac-12 tourney.”

The Wildcats (24-7, 15-5 Pac-12) clinched their 18th regular-season league title outright at UCLA on Thursday and had won 10 of 11 coming in.

But the Trojans (14-17, 8-12) stopped Arizona cold.

With leading scorer Boogie Ellis having an off night offensively, USC got big efforts from Johnson (six of USC's 15 steals), Rodman (seven rebounds) and freshman Isaiah Collier, who finished with 16 points and five assists. Ellis had only five points on 1-of-8 shooting.

“Beating Arizona is always fun,” Rodman said. “It feels good to be undefeated in March even though we’re just starting.”

Johnson hit a 3-pointer, Collier made a pair of free throws and Rodman scored on a tip-in for a 60-49 lead.

Buoyed by loud chants of "U of A! U of A!", the Wildcats answered with a 3-pointer from Keshad Johnson and a dunk by 7-foot Oumar Ballo to get within six. That was as close as they'd come the rest of the way.

USC's defense held Pac-12 player of the year candidate Caleb Love to a season-worst 2 points on 1-of-10 shooting. He missed all six of his 3-point attempts in only his second single-digit scoring effort of the season.

“We tried to pressure him, tried to make him take tough shots, which I think we did perfectly,” Kobe Johnson said. “We knew coming into it right away we needed to be the more physical team.”

Ballo and Keshad Johnson scored 17 points apiece for the Wildcats, who committed 18 turnovers that led to 17 points for the Trojans. Ballo had 10 rebounds.

The Trojans closed the game on an 11-6 run, limiting Arizona to just three field goals in the final three minutes. Collier had the crowd in a tizzy with a one-handed jam and Joshua Morgan followed with a slam of his own. USC made 16 of 18 free throws overall.

USC ended a six-game skid against the Wildcats, who beat the Trojans 82-67 in Tucson in January. It was third-year Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd's first loss to USC in six games.

“It shows we can compete with anybody,” Johnson said.

Rodman added, “We can beat anyone."

Neither team led by more than five in the first half, which ended with Bronny James dribbling the clock down and hitting a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining for a 34-30 lead. He later had a steal and a slam dunk. His father, LeBron James, took it in from a courtside seat. The younger James had five points and six rebounds in 19 minutes.

“This is the best he’s played in a while. He got two rebounds above the rim,” coach Andy Enfield said. “We don’t win this game without our bench coming in and giving us great minutes.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Wildcats are looking to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make a deep run behind a strong senior contingent that includes North Carolina transfer Love, Ballo, San Diego State transfer Johnson and Pelle Larsson.

USC: After a school-record four consecutive 20-win seasons, the Trojans fell off the cliff. They have regained some momentum along a rocky road that included a six-game skid in January and early February. They'll lose fifth-year stalwart Ellis, graduate transfer Rodman and senior Morgan. It's possible Collier and James could decide to leave early.

UP NEXT

Arizona: The Wildcats are the top seed for the Pac-12 Tournament next week in Las Vegas and will play a quarterfinal game Thursday.

USC: The Trojans will play a first-round game in the Pac-12 tourney Wednesday.

___

AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-pollm and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball