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No. 17 Arizona beats USC to tie for first

By Jack Magruder, The Sports Xchange

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona worked its way into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 by beating USC on Sunday, but coach Sean Miller was not particularly pleased with the way the No. 17 Wildcats did it.

Guard Gabe York had 17 points and four 3-pointers in an 86-78 victory over No. 23 USC at McKale Center, as the Wildcats (21-5, 9-4 Pac-12) won their fifth straight and moved into a deadlock with No. 11 Oregon (20-6, 9-4) with three weeks to play.

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The Trojans trimmed a 16-point halftime deficit to two with just under seven minutes remaining before missing their next nine field-goal attempts as the Wildcats extended their lead to double-digits.

"I think we've established ourselves that we're good," Miller said. "If we want more than that, if we want a real chance at this regular-season championship, we can't do the things we just did in the second half. Can't.

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"We're going to run out of time."

Forward Ryan Anderson had 14 points and reserve forward Mark Tollefsen had 13 points as the Wildcats avenged a 105-101, four-overtime loss to USC on Jan. 9. That is longest game in NCAA Division I this season and was part of a stretch in which the Wildcats lost four of seven games.

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Forward Bennie Boatwright had 18 points and guard Jordan McLaughlin had 15 points for USC (18-7, 7-5), which has been swept on six of its last seven Arizona trips. The Trojans lost at Arizona State on Friday.

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York's 3-pointer with 12 minutes remaining gave Arizona a 64-50 lead, but USC used an 18-6 run to close to within two points at 70-68 on McLaughlin's 3-pointer from the left corner with 6:43 left. McLaughlin had three 3-pointers in that run and Boatwright had two.

But USC had only four free throws in its next nine possessions, helping Arizona pull away. Guard Allonzo Trier's 3-pointer with 4:52 remaining made it 77-69, and guard Kadeem Allen's floater in the lane pushed it to 79-69 with 3 1/2 minutes left. Trier suffered a fractured right hand in the first meeting and missed seven games before returning Feb. 6

"Every team makes a run," York said. "No matter if it is great defense you're playing, they're going to make shots. But Coach Miller is all about defense, and at some point they are going to end up missing tough shots. We had a hand up. They started to miss shots."

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USC did not make another field goal until Boatwright's 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining made the score 84-75.

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"We pride ourselves on 10 (four-minute) wars, and I think they had gotten four wars in a row," said Anderson, who had six rebounds to halt a streak of five straight double-doubles. "For us, we can't control that, but we can control the next four minutes. We moved past that moment. Coach puts the ball in Gabe's hands and lets him run it up top, and he does a great job of mixing up the plays to make sure we get a good shot."

Guard Elijah Stewart had 12 points for USC and center Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans' leading scorer, had nine. Jovanovic had 25 points and 15 rebounds in a loss at Arizona State on Friday, the first USC player in 21 years to reach those levels in the same game.

After scoring 30 points in the first half, USC scored 38 in the first 13 1/2 minutes of the second half while making seven 3-pointers.

"We played very well in the second half," USC coach Andy Enfield said. "We made shots and we defended at a very high level. Down the stretch, we missed a lot of easy shots and they made a couple of tough ones.

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"To win on the road, especially in a place as tough to win as McKale Center against a top-15 team in the country, you need to make those shots in the last five minutes."

The Wildcats made 18-of-24 free throw attempts. USC was 5-of-11.

Tollefsen had 11 points in a 21-6 run that began with 11 minutes remaining in the first half and helped Arizona take a 46-30 halftime lead.

NOTES: Arizona G Gabe York's first basket of the game enabled him to become the 50th player in school history to score at least 1,000 career points. He has 1,016. ... Arizona sophomore G Parker Jackson-Cartwright started his second straight game at point guard in place Kadeem Allen, who was ill and did not start an 81-75 victory over UCLA on Friday. ... USC entered Sunday with five of its starters averaging between 12.8 and 11.7 points a game. ... With three weeks remaining in the Pac-12 season, six teams are within one loss of the league lead. The two leaders have four conference losses and four teams have five losses. The top four finishers receive byes in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. ... Six Pac-12 teams were in the NCAA RPI top 27 entering games of Sunday, including Arizona and USC.

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