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MBB: Arizona Take Care of Trojans, In Front of Newly Hired Brennan.

TUCSON,AZ— On a day where McKale Center was packed with local celebrities far and wide, the Arizona Wildcats did not disappoint those illustrious attendees, defeating the USC Trojans 82-67. Without question this matchup was already a strong draw to the wildcat faithful. Anyone who could not sell no.12 Arizona hosting the USC Trojans, for the last time before conference realignment, probably should not be in sales. Oh By the way, the Trojans are led by NBA legend Lebron James’ son, Bronny James, who scored 11 points Wednesday night, the third most for Southern California. 

That said, there was a little bit more meaning to this one, and it felt like there was little more enthusiasm in the arena. The reason? Arizona Athletics was holding their official coronation for their newly hired football coach Brent Brennan. Brennan was introduced yesterday to the media, but today was first true appearance to Wildcat nation. Brennan was seated courtside and spoke directly to the crowd during a media timeout with 11:29 remaining in the first half. The crowd was jubilated once he was introduced and he had the audience the entire time he held the mic. When Brennan wanted applause, he received it in thunderous fashion, and when he wanted the school's band, The Pride of Arizona, to Bear Down! They obliged. Also in attendance were standout members of the Wildcat Football team including, Noah Fifita, Tetairoa McMillan, Jacob Manu, and Jonah Coleman. If there is any hope of Arizona retaining these valued members of the program, McKale tried to the best of their abilities by showering the players with cheer, admiration, and respect. Also in attendance, NBA superstar Kevin Durant who received the smallest ovation compared to the aforementioned Arizona Football players. 

The Tucson Celebs had plenty to be entertained by when watching the display of Basketball put on by the Wildcats. Defensively Arizona held USC to 67 points, limited the Trojans to shoot 33.3% from three, and forced 19 turnovers. Much of the offensive struggles for USC should be attributed to their depleted backcourt which was without Boogie Ellis and Isiah Collier, the Trojan’s two top scorers and most talented guards. 

Conversely, Arizona was at full strength and got terrific production from their guards, most notably Caleb Love and Pelle Larsson who combined for 33 points and were 6 of 14 from three. Love also led the team in assists with five and played 35 minutes by the game's end. 

The story of this one was perhaps more intriguing than was expected. Arizona was favored by 20.5 points per ESPN Bet and was the overwhelming analytical favorite with a roughly 95% chance of victory according to ESPN Analytics. However, 15 minutes in, USC was within just three points of Arizona as they trailed 31-28. Arizona was struggling at times against USC’s 2-3 zone, and had several periods of stagnant offense, generally due to a lack of ball movement and persistence on perimeter shooting.

The Wildcats would play their best basketball for the next 10 minutes of game clock, the final five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half. During those ten minutes, Arizona outscored USC 26-15 and expanded their lead to 57-43. The Wildcats never looked back as they cruised to an 82-67 victory in a game that had a little extra meaning.

 It has been a tumultuous week for the Arizona Wildcats to say the very least, but the past 36 hours likely have Athletic Director Dave Heeke feeling a little better than he did Sunday Night when former Football Coach Jedd Fisch boarded his charter plane to Seattle, Washington to be the next HC of the UW, as his former boss Bill Belichick would call it. 

With this victory Arizona improves to 13-4 on the season and 9-0 at home. The Wildcats now boast a 4-2 conference record in the PAC-12 which places them in a tie for second. USC fell to a shocking 8-10 on the season which includes a 2-5 record in the PAC-12. Furthermore, the Trojans are winless on the road in conference play this season despite four attempts. 

Wednesday Night is likely the last time Arizona will host USC for the foreseeable future due to conference realignment. As a result of the collapse of the PAC-12, USC is off to the BIG-TEN and Arizona to the BIG-12. The two await their true swan song which is scheduled for March 9th in Los Angeles. In the meantime they each have conference matchups scheduled for Saturday with USC heading North to Tempe to face ASU and UCLA departing Tempe with a win over ASU to face the Wildcats in Tucson, Saturday at 2PM on ESPN2. 

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