As the buzzer rang an end to a 74-50 Arizona beat down of USC, the aura at the McKale Center was one of satisfaction and a perhaps a pinch of arrogance.
After being startled two nights earlier by UCLA’s quick start, Arizona similarly raided the Trojans in the opening minutes on Saturday, getting out to a 29-7 lead. From there, the outcome was never in question and the only drama came in whether York would score.
He finished the game with two three pointes, each of which set the Zona Zoo afire.
“There’s nobody that felt very good after Thursday,” said Sean Miller. “But our response is to get back is to get back and be as good as we can in this game and I’m proud of our efforts.”
Arizona played debilitating defense and forced a Trojans team coming off a 91 point performance to shoot 28% from the field and just 5-20 from behind the arc.
By the second half, USC’s game-plan consisted of launching three pointers, as there was no hope of scoring in the paint against Arizona’s big three freshmen along with Angelo Chol.
On offense, the Cats looked as balanced and in sync as they have all season.
Nick Johnson led the attack with 14 points that included two bank shots and a dazzling backwards dunk. Also reaching double digits were Solomon Hill, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski.
For Tarczewski in particular, the game finally provided an opportunity for him to be prioritized down low. “It was really nice to be able to get the ball and show what I can do,” he said.
The biggest storyline however was on the play of Chol and York, two guys that have not seen a great share of minutes since Pac-12 play started.
Chol scored his first point since the Diamondhead Classic on Saturday but his lack of touches has not affected his demeanor in the slightest. Miller said of the sophomore, “I have had very few players come into my office and he said ‘coach, as long as we are winning, you never have to talk to me.’”
Meanwhile, York’s two three pointers left Miller presuming that more playing time may be on the horizon.
What stood out most in the route was how no one on the team responded negatively to a double digit loss less than 48 hours earlier. A few of the players were even visibly laughing.
In a potential trap game that could have sent Arizona’s season reeling the wrong direction, Miller’s lasting impression was that “our team stuck together.”