USC basketball (21-8) suffered their fourth loss in a row, blowing a late lead at ASU, 83-82, to put their tournament hopes in jeopardy.
The lowdown: De’Anthony Melton opened the scoring with a three-pointer, but it was ASU who started out red hot from distance, hitting four of their first five attempts from deep.
Jonah Mathews tied things up at 12 with a triple and USC jumped out to a 19-16 lead. However, the Sun Devils responded with a 12-0 run including a pair of three-pointers.
The combination of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu worked the Trojans back into the proceedings but ASU maintained an advantage for much of the half.
With three minutes to go in the period, Elijah Stewart knocked down a three-pointer and followed it up with an alley-oop dunk on a fastbreak to pull USC within a point at 41-40.
Tra Holder and Boatwright traded triples in the final minute to keep the deficit at one. Then Metu grabbed a rebound off of ASU’s last possession of the half, dribbled down the court and loosed a three-point attempt which went in at the buzzer to put the Trojans ahead 48-47.
The Sun Devils wasted no time regaining their advantage in the second half, scoring six unanswered points to open the period.
The Trojans fought back, however, with Shaqquan Aaron’s layup tying the game at 59, though he failed to convert three-point opportunity at the free throw line.
ASU’s Obinna Oleka got the crowd on their feet with an alley-oop dunk but Boatwright quieted them by hitting a three-pointer immediately after.
Closing in on the eight-minute mark, Metu slammed down an emphatic dunk putting USC up 69-68.
Following a Metu block, Boatwright stormed forward for a fastbreak layup plus a foul shot to give the Trojans their largest lead of the night to that point at 74-68.
That lead extended to 10 when Mathews knocked down a corner three with just over five minutes to play.
Metu converted a dunk as time ticked down but the Trojans comfortable lead slipped away before their eyes. A bad Boatwright turnover gave the Sun Devils new life as Shannon Evans II hit a triple to draw back within five points nearing the two-minute mark.
When Stewart missed the front end of a one-and-one, Kodi Justice made him pay for it by hitting a three-pointer on the other end to make it a one point game with 14 seconds left.
On the inbounds pass, Boatwright committed another turnover and a foul put Holder at the free throw line where he gave the Sun Devils the lead.
Boatwright tried to make up for his mistakes with a three-point attempt but his shot didn’t fall and USC came away with a stunning loss, 83-82.
The takeaway: Houston, USC has a problem.
The Trojans were well on their way to a needed victory with a 10-point lead in the final minutes against ASU, but fortune changed quickly.
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Boatwright led the Trojans with 22 points, but his critical turnovers ultimately fueled the ASU comeback. Missed free throws by Metu and Stewart in the final minutes didn’t help matters either.
A win would have put USC in a stable position as the season nears its end. Instead, the loss has put a serious dent in the Trojans’ NCAA tournament resume.
The committee might have forgiven USC for consecutive losses to Oregon, UCLA and Arizona, but a collapse against a 15-16 ASU squad will not play well.
Stat of the game: USC was outscored 12-1 in the final 3:55 of the game.
Next on tap: USC returns back home for the final two games of the conference slate, beginning with Washington State on Wednesday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m.