TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Frustrated with another offensive letdown, Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd decided he was going to shake up the starting lineup.
Before pulling the trigger, Lloyd wanted to run it by his team.
They were all for it and it couldn’t have worked out much better.
Courtney Ramey scored 16 points, Azuolas Tubelis had 15 points and 17 rebounds, and No. 11 Arizona used a revamped lineup to beat Southern California 81-66 on Thursday night.
“Starting doesn’t mean a lot to me,” Lloyd said. “It’s about putting lineups out there, finishing games and finding combinations.”
Lloyd’s decision to change up his starting lineup came shortly after last week’s 19-point loss to Oregon. Arizona’s offense needed a spark and so did its bench, so Lloyd moved Cedric Henderson Jr. to the starting lineup in place of Pelle Larsson.
The Wildcats (16-3, 5-3 Pac-12) had a much better offensive flow at the start, racing to a 15-point halftime lead. Arizona bogged down a bit in the second half, but shot 48% from the floor and 12 for 24 from 3 after failing to eclipse 38% in four of its last five games.
Larsson had 15 of Arizona’s 21 bench points. Henderson finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
“If he comes to us with an idea, we have to be grown men and accept it and understand what’s best for the team,” said Ramey, who went 5 of 10 from 3.
USC (13-6, 5-3) had been getting better offensively as the season has worn on, but took a step back against Arizona. The Trojans couldn’t get open looks to fall during a shaky start and struggled against Arizona’s pressure the rest of the night, shooting 37% and 4 of 17 from the 3-point arc.
Drew Peterson led the Trojans with 15 points, but had just four after halftime before fouling out. Leading scorer Boogie Ellis had 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting with four turnovers.
“We need our best players to play well, especially on the road against Arizona, if you’re going to have a chance to win,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
USC played one of its best all-around games in a 71-56 win over Utah on Saturday.
Against Arizona, Enfield used 11 players in the first half, trying to find a combination that worked.
USC had trouble stopping Tubelis and Oumar Ballo in the post early while struggling with Arizona’s offensive movement through most of the first half.
The Trojans were disjointed offensively from the opening tip, struggling with turnovers and getting shots to fall. USC shot 11 of 34 and had nine first-half turnovers.
Arizona offset 11 turnovers with 14-of-27 shooting, taking a 41-26 halftime lead on Ramey’s last-second 3-pointer.
“It really was depressing from a offensive standpoint because we had really clean looks,” Enfield said. “And seemed like we would miss a few and they come down and make a couple to extend the lead.”
The Trojans tried to cut into the lead in the second half, but Arizona had an answer each time.
USC scored the first six points of the first half to get within nine. Henderson followed with consecutive 3-pointers.
The Trojans used an 11-3 run to pull within 60-47, only to watch it climb back to 18 on a short Kerr Kriisa jumper and Larsson’s 3.
USC has the length to match up with Arizona, but not the heft. The beefier Wildcats scored 30 points in the paint and made it tough for the Trojans to get into any kind of offensive rhythm.
Arizona had good offensive flow with its new-look lineup in the first half and an answer every time USC tried to make a run. The Wildcats were solid at the defensive end all night to beat the Trojans for the 11th time the past 12 games in Tucson.
Arizona didn’t have a huge rebounding edge, finishing with a 43-36 advantage.
The issue Enfield had was where the rebounds came from.
Tubelis and Ballo combined for 24 rebounds, with Tubelis grabbing 13 on the defensive glass.
USC’s big men combined for one defensive rebound.
“To have five guys with one defensive rebound needs to be better,” Enfield said. “We’re looking for guys to step up and defend and rebound at a higher level than that.”
USC: At Arizona State on Saturday.
Arizona: Hosts No. 5 UCLA on Saturday.
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