The must win game of the road trip for Arizona State was Saturday’s matchup with USC. Every win at this point in the season is important but the one they needed and the one they were supposed to have was against the Trojans.
Unfortunately for ASU things did not turn out in their favor as they fell to USC on Saturday afternoon, 57-56.
The Sun Devils came out flat. They had just seven points with just over five minutes left in the first half. Shot nine of 24 from the field, had 10 turnovers, and trailed by as much as 19 in the first half. But a late run at the end of the half brought the Sun Devils with in 11 at halftime.
“We didn’t play very well,” stated ASU head coach Herb Sendek. “I mean obviously we were turning the ball over, we were missing shots. We were just really cold.
In the second half ASU clawed their way back slowly but surly. Jordan Bachynski and Jahii Carson led the charge. Carson finished a game high 23 and Bachynski added 17. But the unsung hero of the team in the second half, especially down the stretch, was Chris Colvin who finished the game with ten points.
“We have to continue to strive for consistency but I thought Chris (Colvin) was outstanding tonight,” Sendek mentioned. “He really gave us a chance to win. Without his outstanding play we’re not even in the game.”
With less than a minute to play the game saw a little bit of controversy. USC has the ball up three with the shot clock winding down and almost simultaneously the shot clock expired and a foul was called on Jordan Bachynski. After officials reviewed the play they found that the foul was called tenths of a second before shot clock read zero. The most controversial part was that the officials said that USC’s Eric Wise was fouled in the act of shooting.
“We were preparing to go on defense knowing we were up three,” said USC interim head coach Bob Cantu. “Then we found out we got free throws.”
“My question was how do you attempt a shot in a tenth of a second,” Sendek added. “I didn’t get an explanation.”
For ASU, the close games whether won or lost is nothing new. Nine out of the last ten games for the Sun Devils have been decided by single digits. On the Southern California trip alone, a matter of a few possessions caused ASU to be swept rather then doing the sweeping.
“Every game we have lost has been a close game and our guys haven’t folded the tank once,” said Sendek. “If nothing else, you have to celebrate their heart. You know, the way they battle.
USC has an unusual home court advantage. Normally the crazy fans and the hostile environment is what makes road games tough. But at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, it is quiet and lacks an electric atmosphere. The Trojans are used to that but road teams like the Sun Devils are not. Something Jahii Carson mentioned after the game that could have been a factor in their slow start.
“Our energy wasn’t what we are used to seeing, maybe because the crowd wasn’t into it,” said Carson. “But we have to create our own energy. We didn’t do that at first and they came out and hit us right in the chops.”
The Sun Devils have one game left against rival Arizona in Tucson before what will be a make or break pac-12 tournament for them.
“I am just going to keep my head up and keep on encouraging these guys and let them know that we still have a tournament to play,” mentioned Carson. “We still have another game to prepare for. We’ve just got to be warriors and keep our heads up.”
-Jahii Carson entered the game averaging 21.3 points a game on the road in Pac-12 play.
-Last meeting between ASU and USC in Tempe saw ASU hit nine three-pointers and saw Evan Gordon score 28 points. This time ASU hit one three and Gordon was scoreless.
-ASU’s bench was outscored by USC’s bench 34-10.
-ASU lost the game despite making four more field goals than USC. They did however shoot five less free throws and made four less three-pointers.