Once again, the Sun Devils fell into a rut in a critical game and had to battle back to salvage hopes of a victory. This time, however, their comeback fell short. ASU (20-10, 9-8 Pac-12) lost to USC 57-56 on Saturday at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
In Pac-12 conference competition, the Sun Devils have lost six games by five or fewer points. Against USC, they fell for the fifth time in seven games. If you thought a pattern had emerged over the course of this season, you were right.
The Trojans 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.
Coach Herb Sendek was philosophical about ASU’s third conference loss in a row, which could deal a fatal blow to his team’s fledgling NCAA Tournament hopes. “Everyone knew (from the beginning) that the schedule was going to play out very difficult down at the end,” said Sendek. “We’re two possessions away from having two wins this weekend.”
He added, “All we can do is keep battling…every game we’ve lost has been a close game. Our guys haven’t folded the tent once. If nothing else, we have to celebrate their heart and the way they battled.”
Despite falling behind by double digits early in Saturday’s contest, the Sun Devils kept fighting. They were behind by 11 at halftime and closed to within 51-45 with 5:40 to go. Senior guard Chris Colvin then completed a three-point play to bring ASU to within five. Following baskets by both teams, Colvin hit another critical shot to narrow the score to 55-52 with just under a minute left.
At this point, fate played a nasty trick on ASU. USC guard J.T. Terrell launched a hopeless three-pointer as the shot clock wound down. The Trojans’ Eric Wise rebounded and a whistle sounded. Rather than call a shot clock violation, officials charged ASU center Jordan Bachynski with a foul on Wise in the act of shooting, giving him two attempts from the charity stripe.
As luck would have it, Wise buried both free throws to give USC a five-point lead. ASU freshman guard Jahii Carson responded with his usual late-game heroics, making two quick buckets to cut the Trojan lead to one. Unfortunately, the Sun Devils fouled Wise with four seconds remaining on the clock. He missed the first shot of a one-and-one, giving Carson the opportunity to steal a win for ASU.
His hurried jumper missed the mark.
“I didn’t have much time, and I had to make a quick decision,” said Carson. “It was just a little bit too hard.”
Arizona State fans certainly can’t fault Carson for his effort against USC. He led the Sun Devils with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Bachynski had 17 points, and Colvin added 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals off the bench
Wise led the Trojans (14-15, 9-7 Pac-12) to a Senior Day win with 12 points. Sophomore guard Byron Wesley contributed 10.
ASU makes its annual pilgrimage to Tucson next Saturday to meet rival Arizona. Afterwards, it travels to Las Vegas to play in the Pac-12 Tournament. Unless the Sun Devils’ fortunes change — and fast — their trip to Sin City will be a brief one.