USC squared off against the struggling Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday afternoon, and a game that started off as a blowout ended in exciting fashion, with the Trojans fending off ASU long enough to win 57-56.
The Men of Troy led by as many as 17 points in the first half–and by as many as 14 with under eight minutes to play in the second–but a late rally by the Sun Devils pushed this one to the brink.
For USC’s seniors, this was the final home game in their career as a Trojan, and Bob Cantu got the afternoon started with a nice sentiment: aside from seniors Jio Fontan, Eric Wise, Aaron Fuller and James Blasczyk, walk-on senior Tyler Sugiyama got his first career-start when he took to the floor. His play was brief, but the Trojan bench gave him a standing ovation as he left the game.
Eric Wise led the Trojans with 12 points, while Byron Wesley made four of five shots from the field and had 11 points. J.T. Terrell dished out 10 points for USC, and also had three steals.
For the Sun Devils, Jahii Carson led with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jordan Bachynski had 17 points and Chris Colvin added 10 more.
Neither team shot particularly well in this game–39.2-percent from the field for USC and 42.9-percent for ASU–but once the Trojans got rolling, Arizona State was hapless to stop them. Perhaps fired up for their upset win over No. 11 Arizona on Wednesday, but the Trojans played with confidence and poise despite the fact that at one point in the first half, neither team scored for three straight minutes. Chass Bryan drained a three with four minutes left in the first half to give the Trojans a 29-9 lead, and carried a 31-20 lead with them into the half.
After the break, it took Arizona State nearly the entire second half to make it competitive. Carson hit a jumper with two minutes left to cut USC’s lead to 55-50, and then followed that up with an assist to Colvin to make it 55-52. Arizona State went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to make this a nail-biter.’
Jio Fontan also went down in the second half, cradling his right wrist as he left the court. He returned shortly thereafter with his wrist taped, and finished the game. Later, he had an MRI and was diagnosed with a sprained wrist.
With the game on the line, Wise sank a pair of clutch free throws to put the Trojans up 57-52 with 17 ticks left on the clock. Carson fought back with a made layup with nine seconds left, and then knocked down another jumper to bring the game within one point.
Wise was fouled on the subsequent possession and missed his bonus free-throw, but Carson could not get his desperation shot to fall, and the Trojans would take home the victory.
USC is 3-0 on the season in games decided by just one point.
With the win, USC is now 14-15 on the season, but more importantly, 9-7 in Pac-12 play. They sit alone in 6th place in the conference, and are just one game shy of .500.