Once again, I wrote this during the game at the Staples Center.
Twenty-four minutes to tip off; the biggest game of the season has yet to come. We are dealing with two teams that both need to win, but for completely different reasons.
For Arizona State, the issue is confidence. Going into the NCAA Tournament with a Pac-10 Championship under their belt would give us the swagger of a winner. Without the win, we go into the tournament with less momentum.
USC, on the other hand, needs to win today to ensure a spot in the dance. Without the win, USC is at best a long shot. Their resume isn't strong enough to justify confidence in an at-large bid, but their recent wins against California and UCLA might give them a boost in the minds of the selection committee.
Looking at their schedule and results, USC needs this win to feel good about themselves going into Selection Sunday. Their only win against the top 25 in the regular season was against us in January. They did beat UCLA last night, however. Losses include Seton Hall, Arizona, and Stanford.
USC is in red, ASU is the home team in this match up of 6 against 4. This is a very unlikely tournament final game, but I won't complain.
USC is running out Daniel Hackett in an effort to shut down Harden.
ASU is going with the winning formula of Glasser, Abbott, Harden, Kuksiks, and Pendergraph.
With the score tied at 15, Abbott makes a great defensive play to get a wide open lay up.
22-17 Sun Devils with 9:00 left to go in the first half. Without Harden's scoring production, I am impressed with Glasser, Abbott and Pendergraph. I will add that Harden has at least 4 assists, so his presence is being felt regardless of point total.
Good open looks from beyond the arc for the Sun Devils.
More after the jump.
Daniel Hackett is showing a lot of emotion when things don't go his way, and he believed that he was fouled in the lane. When no whistle was blown, he jumped in the air and yelled.
Our guards are hitting the boards and playing big on defense. All signs point to yes so far in this half.
Abbott hits another three! He is showing up at the right time and giving us 5 reliable scoring threats. How can you stop that?
We have opened up our lead to 27-19, while resting James Harden. ASU fans could not possibly ask for any more than what they are getting right now.
ASU is currently 50% from downtown, with seven assists. That is in comparison to USC's 2 assists.
Once again, ASU comes out flat after a strong first half. Are we too relaxed, or is the losing team too fired up?
Abbott is delivering the goods again, hitting from three at a much higher rate than during the regular season.
USC hits a long two to cut the lead to 9, and without harden in the game, Glasser is looking to create his own shot. Unsuccessful, Kuksiks finds Pendergraph in the paint for an easy bucket.
Worst case scneario right there with 13:51 left to go. Kuksiks gets blocked, Abbott fouls DeMar DeRozan, and he still makes the layup cutting the lead to 5. Harden has to make an appearance.
The officials picked a pretty great time to make ticky tack calls, right when they need to let play open up a bit.
USC is killing themselves at the free throw line, missing far too many. Make a few of those, and this is a one possession game. That said, we are only up four.
Pendergraph is dominating the game tonight.
With the end in sight, USC has upped their defensive intensity... to the point of over aggressiveness. Marcus Simmons of USC was all over Glasser on that last play.
3:52 left, ASU is trying to keep focused and win the Pac-10 Championship. What a big moment for this school.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us. But we showed a lot of potential this weekend, and could make a good run at it in the tournament should we get favorable matchups.