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USC is outmatched by Arizona, loses third consecutive game

Everywhere USC looked, there was Arizona.

The Wildcats flew through the air for rebounds, blocks and alley-oops. In the lane stood two 7-foot players who may as well have been walls. On the perimeter, sharpshooters who would not miss.

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No. 13 Arizona played inspired, coming off consecutive losses against Washington and UCLA, and USC could not match its tempo or physicality in an 81-67 loss Saturday at the McKale Center.

"Arizona played exceptionally well on offense," USC coach Andy Enfield said after the game. "They have so many weapons at every position."

The Trojans (17-9, 8-5 Pac-12 Conference) have lost eight straight in Tucson dating to 2008.

And suddenly, a season that less than two weeks ago appeared destined for March (with the Trojans on a six-game win streak) has turned into one of uncertainty.

A win Saturday would have given USC a share of the lead in the Pac-12.

Instead, after three consecutive losses, at UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona (20-6, 10-3), the Trojans fall into a logjam of five-loss teams.

"We're fine," USC's Jordan McLaughlin said. "We know we're a good team and we know it's a tough season."

USC's defense, which sparked its six-game run, became its downfall at Arizona.

The Wildcats shot 56% (32-57). Guard Rawle Alkins connected on four three-pointers and finished with 20 points. Forward Deandre Ayton scored 18 and center Dusan Ristic had 16.

"The whole game going up against guys who are 7 feet and 250, that's going to be brutal for anybody," USC's Nick Rakocevic said. "Just seeing those guys block to block, it was difficult."

The Trojans, who shot 44% (24-54), struggled to penetrate the Wildcats' defense throughout the game. They forced errant shots, often with the shot clock set to expire.

Chimezie Metu scored 18 and McLaughlin, scoreless in the first half, finished with 16. Rakocevic finished with 12 points and fouled out with 4:37 remaining.

Enfield chose to sit Shaqquan Aaron and give Derryck Thornton his first start.

"Derryck has been playing well and we wanted some speed," Enfield said.

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Thornton finished with seven points and three assists.

The Wildcats started fast from the opening whistle, making five of their first six shots to take a 12-7 lead before USC settled in.

An Elijah Stewart three-pointer and a Metu layup, followed by a pair of Rakocevic baskets, tied the score at 20. But USC went cold for the next 3 minutes 19 seconds and Arizona went on a 9-0 run to lead 27-20.

The Wildcats took a 37-31 lead into halftime after three three-point baskets by Alkins.

USC, sparked by consecutive three-pointers from McLaughlin, opened the second half on a 10-0 run before Arizona pulled away for good.

UP NEXT

Thursday vs. Oregon, 6 p.m., Galen Center. TV: ESPN2. Radio: 690 — USC defeated Oregon 75-70 in Eugene last month to break a 14-game losing streak to the Ducks.

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry

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