LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Gabe Pruitt scored the points that mattered
But that wasn't the reason he was smiling after leading Southern
California to a 77-70 victory over Arizona on Thursday night.
It was his career-high seven steals.
"I think that's the most I've ever had," the 6-foot-4
sophomore said with a grin. "I was real confident in our defense.
I saw the openings."
Pruitt scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half, and Nick
Young added 21 points and nine rebounds as USC snapped a five-game
losing streak to the Wildcats.
Lodrick Stewart scored 17 points for the Trojans (6-4, 15-6),
who took advantage of 22 turnovers while committing only 12.
"USC had 22 fast-break points, probably 14 of them came from
steals," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "You look at the
turnovers and that's the difference."
The loss was the fifth in nine games for the Wildcats (6-4,
13-8), whose streak of 18 straight seasons with 20 or more
victories might be in jeopardy. They've got eight games remaining
before the Pac-10 tournament, assuring them of at least nine more
games this season.
The Trojans, meanwhile, have won four of their last five games
and already assured themselves of better Pac-10 and overall records
than last season, when they were 5-13 in conference play and 12-17
"I thought our guys played defense from the start of the game
to the end," first-year USC coach Tim Floyd said. "Our
aggressiveness led to some open-floor opportunities off our
Floyd added a word of caution, though.
"We're still the type of team that can lose eight in a row if
we're not careful," he said.
Stewart also did an excellent job at the defensive end, helping
hold Arizona's Hassan Adams to a season-low nine points. Adams, who
entered averaging a conference-leading 19.5 points, shot 4-of-11
and committed seven turnovers.
"He was out of rhythm, but he kept playing hard the whole
game," Stewart said. "This means a lot. It's a great win against
one of the best programs in the nation."
Said Floyd: "Lodrick, he guarded tonight, he really guarded. He
should be able to play dfense, he's a great athlete."
Adams said USC didn't do anything special defensively.
"I was getting looks. My shot just wasn't falling," he said.
"I didn't want to force it, I was trying to get my teammates
"This is a big disappointment, man. We couldn't do anything
right. We've got to get back on the horse. We've just got to get it
done. You can't put a finger on one particular thing."
Freshman Marcus Williams led Arizona with 17 points and nine
rebounds. Mustafa Shakur added 14 points, four rebounds and five
assists and Ivan Radenovic had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the
Wildcats, who lost despite outrebounding the Trojans 45-30.
Kirk Walters had seven points and eight rebounds before fouling
out with 3:35 remaining.
Freshman Ryan Francis, who had eight points, made two straight
baskets early in the second half to snap a 42-all tie and put USC
ahead for good.
But the Trojans had several anxious moments before the end.
Pruitt made a basket with 4:25 left to make it 59-54, but Shakur
responded 13 seconds later to draw the Wildcats within three
Stewart made two straight baskets following Arizona turnovers to
extend USC's lead to 63-56 with three minutes to play. Shakur made
a 3-pointer to cut USC's lead to four, but that's as close as the
Wildcats would get.
The Wildcats made their first three shots -- two short jumpers by
Radenovic and a 3-pointer by Williams -- for a 7-0 lead. Then they
got sloppy, with Pruitt scoring twice following turnovers and
Stewart made a 3-pointer, enabling the Trojans to tie it.
Neither team led by more than four points during the rest of the
first half, which ended in a 30-all tie.
Starting USC center Abdoulaye Ndiaye fouled out with 7:12
remaining after having played only eight minutes and being held
scoreless with four 12 turnovers.
Arizona was coming off an 86-69 loss at North Carolina, its most
lopsided setback of the season. The Wildcats beat the Trojans 74-63
in Tucson last month.