The Arizona State Sun Devils bounce back from a tough loss by earning a hard fought and exhilarating win overtime against the Trojans Thursday night, 98-93.
Coming off a disappointing 17-point loss at the hands of rival Arizona in their last game, the Arizona State basketball team had to be hoping to come out strong against USC. It might be debatable how strong of a win this overtime game was, but there is no doubt it was thrilling.
The turning point of the back and forth game may have been USC’s Eric Wise’s technical foul in the second half after about the 3:30 mark, which was also about one minute after the Sun Devils had regained the lead. Two made free throws as a result of the technical made it a 75-69 ASU lead. ASU looked as if they had the game firmly in hand.
That is until USC’s J.T Terrell came down and hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the top of the arch. With the score 84-82, Sun Devil forward Carrick Felix was fouled at half court and stepped to the line with the double bonus in ASU’s corner. Missing the first, but making the second ASU was then ahead 85-82 with 7.8 seconds remaining.
Once again USC came down the court with only a shot in heaven, and once again they had that prayer answered. This time Jio Fontain knocked down the 3-pointer and effectively sent the game that once seemed in ASU’s firm grasp, into overtime.
Despite surrendering the late lead, coach Sendek said he was confident in his team going into OT. “They had great body language,” he said. “They had tremendous interaction among themselves, and they were just ready to play another five minutes.”
In overtime the game continued its back and forth pattern. Coming down yet again to free throws late in the extended period, ASU point guard Jahii Carson this time stepped to the line with another two point lead at 95-93. Again, missing the first, but making the second, ASU was now up 96-93 with 11.9 seconds left.
Desperate once again, USC came down the court with Fontan shooting this attempt, and, seemingly for the first time in years, USC missed a must-have 3-pointer, giving the Devils the win.
The Sun Devils attack was led out the gate in the first half with nine quick points from Gordon, and sustained largely by Felix’s hustle on the offensive and defensive end.
ASU lead most of the first half until a 7-for-11 3-point shooting half from USC and sloppy play led to the Trojans tying the score at 42 going into halftime.
Carson joined the scoring party with Felix and Gordon in the second half adding 16 of his 21 points after halftime. Carson’s 21 points went nicely with Gordon’s game-high 28.
Gordon answered a question on his elevated play as of late. “Just playing with confidence,” he said. “…I’m coming around and shaking off the rust.”
ASU’s previous loss to Arizona came largely as the result of poor play down the stretch because of the Sun Devils’ very light bench, which was not aided by the absence of Chris Colvin due to suspension.
With Colvin still out against USC, the Sun Devil bench player that answered the call of duty tonight was Ruslan Pateev. Although scoring just eight points, Pateev gave the Sun Devils solid minutes throughout the game.
“In the last couple games he’s been a key guy for us. He’s coming off the bench and had a few struggles at the beginning of the year like I did.” Gordon said. “Him playing limited minutes behind Jordan when he gets his opportunity I think he’s always someone we can lean on.”
Pateev matched Jordan Bachynski’s minutes at 10 in the first half, and even exceeded Bachynski’s 22 minutes for the game with 23 of his own.
In the postgame press conference coach Sendek waltzed into the media room seeming upbeat and pleased in spite of the near-loss. Sitting down looking relaxed, Sendek told the media “No jacket no tie, just some B.O.”
Speaking on how much this team gave tonight, Sendek said, “a game like tonight takes every drop you have.”
Next up, the Sun Devils will host to another California team in UCLA. The Bruins are coming off a big win against the sixth-ranked Arizona Wildcats.