Struggling Trojans falter in Tucson

The USC men’s basketball team found itself in unfamiliar territory on Thursday night, grabbing an early lead on the road against a Pac-12 foe that they maintained for more than 17 minutes.

Free falling · Senior guard Andrew Strangis (above) and the Trojans have dropped 16 of their last 18 contests and only have one win in conference play. They will play two of their last three games at the Galen Center. - Chris Pham | Daily Trojan

But the Trojans (6-22, 1-14) were unable to hold off Arizona (20-9, 11-5), which finished the first half on a 12-0 run to take a 28-24 advantage into the break that the Wildcats later extended to a 70-54 victory.

Sophomore guard Garrett Jackson was USC’s main source of offense in the first half, scoring 10 points and adding four rebounds. But he finished 3-13 and failed to register another basket. Freshman guard Byron Wesley, coming off a 16-point performance against UCLA, put together 18 points on 8-14 shooting and seven rebounds in 38 minutes of action. Sophomore guard Maurice Jones joined Jackson and Wesley in double figures with 10 points while playing the entire game.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, recovered from a rough start to outscore their opponents 42-30 in the second half. The win was Arizona’s sixth in its last seven contests, keeping the Wildcats afloat in the Pac-12 race and as a possible at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

Guard Kyle Fogg led Arizona with 16 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, and guard Josiah Turner added 15 points off the bench. Forward Solomon Hill and guard Nick Johnson combined for 18 points. The Wildcats as a team shot 26-57 (45.6 percent), while USC finished 22-57 (38.6 percent).

USC coach Kevin O’Neill utilized just seven players, a common theme for his injury-depleted team. USC dropped its sixth game in a row and its 18th game in 20 tries. At 6-22, the Trojans have set a school record for most losses in a season and will have to win at least two of their remaining three games (excluding the Pac-12 tournament) to avoid their worst record in terms of win-loss percentage.

USC will finish out a two-game road trip against Arizona State (8-20, 4-12) on Saturday. The Sun Devils are one of three teams in the Pac-12 with a losing record overall, joining USC and Utah at the bottom of the conference standings. In the teams’ last matchup on Jan. 5, the Trojans fell to Arizona State 62-53 at the Galen Center. Tip off at Wells Fargo Arena is set for 5 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.