USC basketball exorcised the demons of Sunday’s loss to Washington by surviving a late comeback attempt in a 75-65 victory over ASU.
The lowdown: With brothers Clay and Tyson Helton, Pat Haden, Max Nikias and Nelson Agholor in attendance, USC opened conference play at the Galen Center with an energetic performance which required more nail-biting than initially thought.
Bennie Boatwright started off the scoring with the first of three consecutive three-pointers by USC claim the lead they would maintain throughout.
As ASU went more than seven minutes without scoring, the Trojans built a double-digit lead with the help of Julian Jacobs, who was playing despite the injured ankle which kept him out of the second half of the weekend’s loss to Washington.
Near the end of the first half, the Trojan crowd enjoyed a spectacular Chimezie Metu one-handed alley-oop dunk off an in-bounds pass from Jordan McLaughlin and USC entered the half leading by ten.
The lead was tested to start the second half as the Trojans went 1-of-6 in the early goings but Boatwright jolted USC out of the slump with a big rebound followed by a coast-to-coast drive and lay up.
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Then it was Metu’s chance to impact the game. The freshman big man hit a jumper to extend USC’s lead before blocking a shot on the other end. He would later supply the pass which set up Malik Marquetti on a corner three at the shot clock buzzer to put the Trojans up 15.
USC took the largest lead of the game at 17 on a Darion Clark layup, but the Sun Devils never went away. They closed the deficit to eight points with four minutes remaining after the Trojans’ 11th turnover and got a friendly bounce on a deep three-pointer to cut it within five points in the final two minutes.
ASU took advantage of a turnover as USC was flustered by the press and hit another three to close within two.
Jacobs nabbed a key rebound and got the Trojans moving more quickly down the court, finding Metu for a monster dunk. USC followed that up with another two fastbreak baskets from Katin Reinhardt and Jacobs to secure the victory.
The takeaway: In opening the Pac-12 slate at the Galen Center with a win, the 2015-16 USC squad now owns the best start in conference play since 2011.
The Trojans also matched the 2001 team’s streak of ten home wins to start the season and have put themselves in the position to start unbeaten in 11 for the first time since 1974.
And no stat proves the improvement across the board for the Trojans than the fact that they have already won more games this season than all of the last campaign.
More important than matching or beating historical results though, USC managed to avoid another devastating loss like the one this past weekend when they gave up a 22-point lead to Washington. A second-straight loss like that might have killed confidence going into a tough game against Arizona. Instead, they survived the onslaught and stayed on track.
Player of the game: Julian Jacobs led the Trojans with 15 points and made a huge difference down the stretch going 6-8 from the free throw line and sparking the finishing flurry of scoring.
Stat of the game: USC logged nine blocks versus ASU.
Next on tap: The home stand continues with Saturday game against No. 7 Arizona, who will be looking to bounce back after a last-second loss to UCLA.