(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
The No. 9 Arizona State Sun Devils (25-4, 16-1 Pac-12) traveled to Los Angeles on Friday night for the first half of their southern California road trip to take on the USC Trojans (18-11, 6-11 Pac-12) and were able to escape with another tough victory 50-45.
Offensive woes characterized the first half for the Sun Devils, who were held scoreless for nearly half of the first quarter. USC only allowed ASU to score four points in the first quarter, their lowest point total in a quarter this season.
Things didn’t improve much in the second quarter; they never led in the game and only tied things up with under a minute to go in the first half. It didn’t help that ASU’s Elisha Davis and Quinn Dornstauder shot a combined 2-for-9 from the field.
Coming out of half time, the Sun Devils continued to stay even with USC. They were tied in the third quarter until ASU’s senior guard Katie Hempen hit a three pointer, sparking ASU’s offense and allowing them to take the lead for the first time in the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils finally found the difference maker in the game, freshman Kianna Ibis. She was able to help slow down Kristin Simon, USC’s star forward who totaled a game high 15 points, while giving ASU the offensive spark they needed with eight points off the bench. She helped them achieve a five point lead in the fourth quarter, their largest of the game.
For the fifth time in the past five games between these two teams, this game came down to the last minute. After turning it over twice in the last minute and totaling 23 turnovers, free throws made the difference in the last minute for ASU.
The win is ASU’s seventh straight and keeps them in contention for a share of the Pac-12 regular season title.
Player of the Game: Sophie Brunner
Sophie Brunner, while she didn’t take her first field goal of the night until 2:25 remaining in the game, was the difference maker late in the game. She gave the Sun Devils offensive rebounds to help burn the clock and hit her free throws near the end of the game when it counted most. She finished with five points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Stat of the Night: 21-3
ASU’s bench outscored USC’s bench by 18 points in this game. This was the X-factor in this tight game for the Sun Devils as they always rely on all of their players to get production rather than a single star. ASU freshman Ibis led the bench with eight points. It was especially important on a night when Brunner attempted only two field goals.
ASU will play their final game of the regular season against No. 14 UCLA on Sunday at noon, a game that could very well decide whether or not ASU will earn a share of the Pac-12 title.