Updated at: 01/26/2013 9:37 PM
By BOB BAUM
(AP) TUCSON, Ariz. - In its first three games after changing coaches, Southern California played everyone close.
Then it faced No. 6 Arizona on Saturday night.
The Trojans shot just 28 percent from the field against the Wildcats’ stifling defense in a 74-50 loss that was really more one-sided than that.
"Overall," USC guard J.T. Terrell said, "tonight wasn’t our best."
That was a whopper of an understatement.
The Wildcats (17-2, 5-2 Pac-12), coming off a home loss to UCLA, were dominant from the opening tip, jumping out to leads of 18-4 and 29-7. They were up 39-20 at halftime.
The Trojans (8-13, 3-5) trailed by as many as 34 in the second half.
"Their defense was exceptional," USC interim coach Bob Cantu said. "I mean, they were very physical and very aggressive. We weren’t able to get what we did against other teams."
Putting a loss like the one at home to UCLA on Thursday night in the rearview mirror is never easy, Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
"Our team stuck together," he said. "We had a good day yesterday, a very good day today, and all of the things and qualities that have gotten us to this point were in place in today’s game. I think that was really the story line and why we won in such a lopsided manner."
Nick Johnson scored 14 points, Solomon Hill 13, Brandon Ashley 11 and Kaleb Tarczewski 10 for Arizona. No USC player reached double figures in the Trojans’ lowest-scoring game of the season. Jio Fontan scored nine.
USC dropped to 1-3 since coach Kevin O’Neill was fired. The other two losses since Cantu took over were by one point to Oregon and 98-93 in overtime Thursday night at Arizona State.
This one was a blowout in a hurry.
"Things got away from us early and we weren’t able to get back in it," Cantu said. "We have to regroup and refocus and you have to get ready for the next game. You just have to keep working, and my goal with the team is to look at the big picture and play our best basketball in February and March and see what can happen. Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. We have to make a lot of corrections and things on Monday, and we have to make a quick turnaround with our game on Wednesday (at UCLA)."
The Wildcats, who fell behind UCLA 21-5 in Thursday night’s 84-73 home loss to the Bruins, turned the tables on the Trojans.
USC made two of its first 19 shots and committed seven turnovers, allowing Arizona to go up 29-7 on Hill’s layup with 7:55 left in the half, the last points in an 11-0 Wildcats run.
When the Trojans managed to cut it to 36-20 with a pair of baskets in the final minute, Mark Lyons sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key 2 seconds before the buzzer to make it 39-20 at the break.
The UCLA game was still the main subject, even after the win over USC.
"It was weird walking around campus with a loss," Wildcats freshman Grant Jerrett said. "Nobody wants to lose, but it’s something you have to live with and learn from."
Arizona never trailed in this one.
Johnson scored eight as the Wildcats streaked to a 12-2 lead, then consecutive 3s by Lyons and Kevin Parrom put them ahead 18-4.
The 20 points at the half were the fewest this season for the Trojans, who had averaged 72.4 points in their first seven conference games.
USC "warmed up" to 24 percent shooting in the first half (7 for 29), compared with 48 percent for Arizona (14 for 29).
But the second half started the same way the first did, with the Trojans making three of their first 20 shots. Arizona, meanwhile, took a 58-27 lead when Johnson banked in a 15-footer with 10 minutes to play.
USC was able to cut into the lead only when Miller emptied his bench in the final 3 minutes.
USC’s three-guard starting trio of Terrell, Byron Wesley and Renaldo Woolridge was a combined 5 for 26 from the field, 3 of 11 on 3-pointers.
"This is a tough place to play all-around," Terrell said. "I think tonight we just weren’t on our game."
UCLA was off its game, too. The Bruins followed their big win in Tucson on Thursday with a loss at Arizona State on Saturday.
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(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)