(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Despite a valiant effort at the end, the Sun Devils couldn’t pull out a victory in a tight 82-79 loss on the road to USC. This was the fourth loss in a row for ASU (9-11), who have struggled mightily to begin their Pac-12 schedule, going 2-5 in conference so far.
One of the biggest issues for ASU during that losing stretch has been playing consistent defense, and that glaring deficiency reared its ugly head again tonight. USC (17-4) got easy shots all night long and were extremely efficient from the field.
The Trojans made 14 of 27 threes, beating out an ASU team that usually has an advantage from behind the arc. USC shot over 51 percent from the field and managed to dominate the game despite only taking three free throws the whole night.
A familiar face led the Trojans once again with the veteran junior guard Elijah Stewart having an explosive night offensively. Stewart led all players with a game-high 29 points and accounted for half of his team’s threes with 7 of 13 shots from behind the arc.
Stewart came out of the gate firing, hitting his first three triples in a three-minute span early in the first half. His hot shooting helped USC build a 45-38 half time lead that was just large enough to eek out the victory.
On a positive note for ASU, senior guard Torian Graham got back on track with a solid 24-point outing. Graham hit three free throws and spun in a layup to pull the Sun Devils within five with a minute to play, but missed two shots in the final 14 seconds.
A desperation three by Shannon Evans II was blocked at the buzzer as another game slipped away from ASU.
Another bright spot for ASU was senior Obinna Oleka had another great rebounding performance, securing a game high 14 rebounds and also throwing in 17 points. Oleka continues to be the only consistently successful rebounder for a small Sun Devil lineup.
The Sun Devils will look to turn their fortunes around on January 25 as they return home to face Washington at Wells Fargo Arena. That game will be at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.