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Arizona-USC game blog: Turner helps Cats pull away for victory

After struggling early, Arizona takes care of business by dispatching USC 70-54. Josiah Turner scored a career-high 15 points and Kyle Fogg has his second career double-double.

Arizona improved to 20-9 overall and 11-5 in the Pac-12.

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Point guard Jordin Mayes, who had missed five consecutive games with a stress reaction in his left foot, came into the game with 1:49 to play. Arizona led 65-49 at the time, so his appearance in mop-up time was just a way to get him back in the flow before Saturday’s game against UCLA.

It’s a good sign in that Mayes should have enough time to ramp up before postseason play.

(Mayes hit a jumper with 20.4 seconds left … and Alex Jacobson gets the assist.

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Josiah Turner has 13 points, six assists and no turnovers with 5:22 to go. Arizona leads 60-48. Seems like not letting him start the game was good motivation.

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Arizona still sloppy but maintaining a 10-point lead — 54-44 — with 7:17 to play. The guard play of Josiah Turner and Kyle Fogg has carried the Cats so far.

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Senior guard Kyle Fogg, who posted his first career double-double last Thursday at Washington State, now has his second. He grabbed his 10th rebound with 13:52 left to go with 13 points.

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Jesse Perry picks up his fourth foul with 14:46 to play. This might be a spot for Kyryl Natyazhko to pick up a couple of minutes, but he is suspended. Coach Sean Miller went with Solomon Hill at center for a minute or so.

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Arizona has a 10-point lead with 14:54 to go, the kind of separation I talked about at the bottom of this post. Although there is plenty of time left, that kind of deficit is going to be hard for the offensively-challenges Trojans to overcome.

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As mentioned below, Arizona didn’t shoot a free throw in the first half. How rare is that? The UA sports information office reports that hasn’t happened since 1983. The Cats ended their drought from the line when Josiah Turner shot two free throws with 19:27 to play.

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USC shot 30 percent in the first half, and it would be no surprise to see the Trojans continue to struggle from the field. Arizona which was at 38.7 percent in the first half, usually gets hot at some point in a game and likely will finish better than that.

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Nobody had to worry about Arizona’s free throw shooting in the first half. That’s because the Cats didn’t shoot any.

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Coach Sean Miller, in his halftime interview, said that was the best half of basketball all season from freshman point guard Josiah Turner.

Turner mad 10 points and made 5 of 8 shots.

“I’m proud of Josiah. He is aggressive like we want him to be,” Miller said.

“If we didn’t have him playing the way he’s playing, we might have five or six points at the half.”

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it would be easy to see Arizona trailing a horrible USC team, which should never happen, especially in McKale.

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Josiah Turner has had two steals that led to fastbreaks in the first half, the second of which gave Arizona a 26-24 lead with 45 seconds to go before the break. That was the Cats’ first lead since 2-0.

Turner ended the half with another basket at the buzzer to give him a team-high 10 points and give the UA a 28-24 edge.

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An 8-0 run brings Arizona back to even at 24-24 with 2:24 to go. Kyle Fogg has led the way and is well on pace for his second career double-double with eight points and seven rebounds. His first double-double came a week ago at Washington State.

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Had some computer trouble … so what have we missed? Another UA slow start, that’s what? USC hit two early 3-pointers to take an 8-2 lead and the Wildcats, as they often are, have been out of sorts offensively.

This is looking like the Utah game from a couple of weeks ago, when Arizona let the undermanned Utes grab the lead and gather momentum.

Arizona trails 24-19 with 6:30 to play.

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In addition to the suspension of center Kyryl Natyazhko, Arizona coach Sean Miller has made a change in the starting lineup.

Starting point guard Josiah Turner is out and senior shooting guard Brendon Lavender is in. Nick Johnson shifts over from his two guard spot to run the point.

Backup point guard Jordin Mayes isn’t expected to play tonight, missing his sixth consecutive game, although he is available. He has been rehabbing a foot injury.

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Full disclosure: I’m not at the game tonight, victim of the trickle-down effect of having my 10-year-old son home sick all week.

I’ll try to muddle through from home while the Arizona Wildcats should have an easy time of it against USC, which is 1-13 in the Pac-12. The Trojans, flattened by injuries, will still be pests on defense but are pea-shooters on offense.

Arizona made only 2 of 15 3-pointers in a 57-46 win over USC last month, so that is an area to watch. The Wildcats take more 3-pointers (19.7 per game) than anyone in the Pac-12.

The Cats won’t have backup center Kyryl Natyazhko tonight. He has been suspended for because of a violation of team rules, the school announced earlier today.

Natyazhko, who started the first six games, has barely played in the past month or so, as coach Sean Miller shortened the rotation to seven players. Natyazhko, who is averaging 1.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in 20 games, could be a factor against a big UCLA team on Saturday … if he gets out of Miller’s doghouse.

Anyway, we will monitor the game and have updates and analysis … you can have your say in the comments section.

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