The No. 7 Arizona Wildcats couldn’t escape Los Angeles with a victory Saturday, dropping their second straight game in a four-overtime thriller against the ever-improving USC Trojans, 103-101.
The Wildcats had the final possession with 23 seconds remaining, but their fate was sealed on a missed three-pointer by Kadeem Allen at the buzzer.
It was sloppy basketball at the end, the product of a marathon manifesting on the court, as Anthony Gimino of the Tucson News noted:
USC wins 103-101 in 4OTs. ... Bad final 23 seconds for Arizona. Whatcha all think?— Anthony Gimino (@AGWildcatReport) January 10, 2016
USC led by as many as 12 points and was on the brink of its second loss in a week, having blown a 22-point advantage against Washington in an 87-85 loss Sunday.
Arizona had to go on a 14-2 run in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime.
Allen sank a two-point jumper to tie the game at 73-73 with 31 seconds remaining, and Jacobs missed a pair of would-be game-winners in the final five seconds.
Arizona missed its first three shots in the first overtime period before finally sinking a free throw to break the ice nearly two minutes in. USC took the lead on a pair of Julian Jacobs free throws, but Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski tipped in a two-point shot to tie the game with seven seconds remaining and send it to double overtime.
Gabe York took over for Arizona in the second overtime, netting a three-pointer and then burying two foul shots to tie the game at 86-86 with 20 seconds to play.
The Wildcats led only once in the final overtime period and were done in by USC’s Elijah Stewart, who made a layup with 2:03 remaining and then sank a pair of free throws to give the Trojans a two-point lead with 23 seconds left.
USC should be a dark-horse contender in the Pac-12, as Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports noted:
Elsewhere in the sports world, Arizona/USC in double-OT. Trojans flying WAY under radar. Crazy athletic, long team. Enfield getting it done.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) January 10, 2016
The Wildcats, who fell to UCLA on Thursday, 87-84, hadn’t lost consecutive games since a trip to Los Angeles in 2012-13 and will look to rebound Thursday against Washington before clashing with Washington State, Stanford and California.
The Trojans haven’t been ranked since the 2008-09 season, but that should change following Saturday’s win over the favorite to win the Pac-12 and possibly reach the Final Four. USC can also make a statement on Wednesday when it travels to UCLA for an intracity showdown with a beatable Bruins team.
While the Trojans looked like they were in trouble following back-to-back losses against Xavier and upstart Monmouth in late November, they've won nine of 10 games since that concerning stretch. And with a rematch against the Wildcats set for Feb. 14 in Tucson, college hoop heads should have that showdown circled as Arizona begins to plot its revenge.
"I was thinking to just make the free throws, black out and make muscle memory kick in," Stewart said following the win, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "I'm glad I made them."
USC head coach Andy Enfield summed up the wild game, per the Los Angeles Times' Alex Shultz: "I thought we had them stopped 15 times and then they'd come up with some kind of shot or pass. That was just a great college basketball game. Arizona is just an amazing team."
Enfield added the following, according to Shultz: "We're a much better team than last year. A lot of the same players, but they've improved and grown up, and now we're a pretty good team. Not a great team yet, but we're pretty good."