Two of the Pac-12’s best meet on the hardwood Friday in Tucson, Ariz., when USC travels to battle No. 13 Arizona.
Ownership of the conference’s top position is on the line. And for both schools, so is an end to a two-game skid.
The Wildcats close a two-game homestand against the Pac-12’s Los Angeles schools in hosting USC, which enters after dropping two straight in heartbreaking fashion to UCLA and Arizona State.
Arizona, meanwhile, has also seen its own defeat at the hands of the Bruins as part of a streak that also included a loss to Washington.
The hour of reckoning for true conference supremacy (and postseason aspirations) comes Friday at 7:15 p.m. PT.
Arizona was white-hot in the last two months, losing just once in 17 games before the consecutive losses in its two most recent contests. Led by predictable standouts Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton, the Wildcats seemed to be hitting their stride before the perils of conference play struck.
USC had a similar story, though they sprinkled in a couple more losses in a similar span.
We turn to a recent common opponent — UCLA — to find some clarity in this matchup beyond purely examining starting fives, and statistically, both posted nearly identical numbers offensively (42.9 percent and 43.9 percent from the field). They also allowed UCLA to make over 45 percent of its 3-pointers. The differences: Arizona shot better from 3, while USC played cleaner basketball, turning the ball over just 7 times.
To summarize: This one seems pretty even on paper.
Also at stake on paper is the lead in the conference, or at least a share of it. After the Trojans failed to capitalize in a last-second loss to Arizona State earlier this week, the best they can do with a win over the Wildcats is move into a tie atop the Pac-12. But Arizona can create some distance late in the regular season with a win of its own.
A USC loss would also allow UCLA to move ahead of the Trojans with a win of its own. The Bruins play Arizona State on Friday at 4 p.m. PT.
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