Southern California junior center Nick Rakocevic tied his career high with 27 points, and touted freshman Kevin Porter Jr. scored 14 in his return to the court as the Trojans beat Arizona 80-57 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Rakocevic, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, made his first six shots from the field and had his way against an Arizona team that was without starting center Chase Jeter because of a back injury.
Rakocevic, with 12 rebounds, recorded his conference-best ninth double-double of the season and the 14th in his career. He hit 13 of 17 field-goal attempts.
USC (11-8, 4-2 Pac-12) led 36-19 at halftime was never threatened in the second half as Arizona (14-6, 5-2) shot just 27.8 percent (20 of 72) against an active Trojans zone defense. Guard Brandon Randolph and post player Ira Lee each scored 12 points to lead the Wildcats, who were 5 of 25 from 3-point range.
Porter, a five-star recruit with projected NBA lottery talent, returned after missing two games due to an undisclosed conduct issue. He entered with 13:59 left in the first half and quickly hit a 3-pointer but then missed a one-handed dunk and an alley-oop layup.
Porter, sidelined for nine games earlier this season because of a right quadriceps contusion, finished one point shy of his career scoring high.
Forward Bennie Boatwright had 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists for USC.
Jeter sustained a back injury Saturday against Oregon State and barely practiced this week. The Wildcats missed Jeter’s 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, as well as his defensive presence.
Ryan Luther started at center for Arizona, which had only two true post players available. Dylan Smith, at 6-foot-5 and 170 pounds, started at power forward. The pair combined for 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Rakocevic scored USC’s first six points of the game as the Trojans established early control. USC led by 17 at the break after Derryck Thornton banked in a step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The 23-point margin of victory was the largest for USC over Arizona since a 100-76 victory on Dec. 1, 1973, before the Wildcats joined the then-Pac-10.
—Field Level Media