HOW THEY MATCH UP
• The series: Arizona has won three straight games over USC and is 5-2 against the Trojans under coach Sean Miller. USC has not won in Tucson since former Trojan coach Kevin O'Neill was serving as UA's interim head coach in 2007-08.
• USC overview: The Trojans are at a higher-scoring pace under interim coach Bob Cantu but also allowing more points. Cantu has made some tweaks that include running more zone defense, but USC still mostly uses a man-to-man defense that features good perimeter pressure and 7-footers Omar Oraby and Dewayne Dedmon around to clean up any defensive mistakes by blocking or altering shots inside. On the wing, J.T. Terrell has taken advantage of more offensive freedom by averaging 17.7 points under Cantu so far while power forward Eric Wise is a dependable scorer with some range.
The transfer from UC-Irvine had some work to do before his upward transfer to USC, melting off 35 pounds from his 6-6 frame to reach about 240, and it has paid dividends. He's been a steady presence for USC, its scoring leader and second-leading rebounder.
A clutch performer in many of Arizona's close games this season, Lyons had no assists and five turnovers while missing 4 of 5 layups in the first half against UCLA on Thursday. That memory could motivate him today.
Games UA has shot below 40 percent from the field (vs. Clemson, San Diego State, Utah and UCLA)
Of USC's last 10 games decided by eight or fewer points
Of 21 layups missed by Arizona against UCLA on Thursday
He said it
On Thursday at ASU, "they played a lot more zone, so we need to be definitely ready for that. … It's difficult to change who you are in midseason, but they're playing a little bit faster, getting a little more in transition. Offensively, Terrell has emerged, and Eric Wise has been their rock."
UA assistant coach Book Richardson, who scouted the Trojans
• G Jio Fontan (6-0, senior)
• G J.T. Terrell (6-3, junior)
• F Byron Wesley (6-5, sophomore)
• F Eric Wise (6-6, senior)
• C Omar Oraby (7-2, junior)
• G Mark Lyons (6-1, senior)
• G Nick Johnson (6-3, sophomore)
• F Solomon Hill (6-7, senior)
• F Brandon Ashley (6-8, freshman)
• C Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0, freshman)
Hill gives perspective
The Wildcats may be two games behind Oregon in the Pac-12 race after an 11-point home-court loss to UCLA on Thursday, but forward Solomon Hill tried to put it into perspective.
"This is a hard loss in front of our home crowd, but we still have to understand we're 16-2, and there's a lot of basketball left," Hill said. "UCLA's a great team, and they got us. We have to just get to the next game. It's too early to just get down on ourselves."
"A lot of love for KO"
Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham who arrived at USC during Kevin O'Neill's first season with the Trojans, said he has mixed feelings about the firing of O'Neill and the installation of Bob Cantu as interim coach.
"Coach Cantu is doing a great job but to say I'm not hurt by (O'Neill's firing) would be a lie," Fontan said. "I've got a lot of love for KO."
Fontan never had a chance to play a full season for O'Neill, a former UA assistant and interim head coach. Fontan sat out parts of 2009-10 and 2010-11 as a redshirt transfer, then missed last season after he blew out his knee during a preseason trip.
Ex-Cat knows interim intimately
Jamal Boddie is only four years removed from getting his UA degree, but he's already a grizzled veteran when it comes to dealing with interim situations. Boddie, who arrived from Memphis along with guard J.P. Prince in 2005 to become a UA student manager, worked under Lute Olson for two seasons and then spent 2007-08 under O'Neill and 2008-09 under interim coach Russ Pennell.
After a year working in Fresno State's ticket office, Boddie rejoined O'Neill on the USC staff, where he now is the Trojans' assistant director of basketball operations.
Boddie has plenty of contacts in the business already, but no assurance of employment next season.
"Just taking it day-by-day," he said.
USC (8-12, 3-4) at No. 6 Arizona (16-2, 4-2) • McKale Center • 5 p.m. today • ESPNU • 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)