In a stunning turn of events last night, the Arizona State Sun Devils scored 98 points in an overtime victory over the USC Trojans. Four Sun Devils were on the court for over 40 minutes, while Evan Gordon had a team-high 28 points.
Herb Sendek's teams have not been known for their frantic pace and frenetic scoring, but Thursday night's showcase against the Trojans was an absolute barnburner. USC pushed the game to overtime on the strength of their improbably good three-point shooting, converting 15 of 26 in regulation, including three straight treys to give the fans bonus basketball.
I really need to hammer this home: USC made some absurd three-pointers. They had no business tying the game at the buzzer. The Sun Devils cracked open the door by missing several key free throws in the final minutes, but what unfolded on the court as time expired was an exercise in miracles.
Without Chris Colvin, ASU has tightened up their rotation even more, relying on six players for significant minutes and inserting Bo Barnes and Eric Jacobsen into the game to give their starters a breather. Barnes made the most of his playing time, knocking down a huge three before halftime.
The real star of the game? Ruslan Pateev. The senior big man logged 23 minutes, spending more time on the court than Jordan Bachynski. Pateev knocked down four of five free throws while blocking three shots and grabbing five rebounds. He will not be a huge factor every game, but resting Bachynski and still pulling out the victory is a great sign for this team's depth in the front court.
The biggest takeaway from last night's victory is that the Sun Devils are entertaining to watch. They can fill up the stat sheet in all kinds of interesting ways. They are far from a top 25 team, but their effort has been exemplary and they have the chops to contend for the Pac-12 crown if they can pull off some upsets down the stretch. The real stress test is Saturday, when the UCLA Bruins come to town. After a big upset in Tucson, will Shabazz Muhammed and the Bruins have a letdown? Or will they hammer through Tempe on the way back to Los Angeles? Only Sendek and his crew know for sure.
- The Devils still need work on their free throws. Only 69% were made last night (25 of 36), and it nearly cost ASU the win.
- The Sun Devils took great care of the ball, with only 10 turnovers in 45 minutes of game time. That is contrasted with 20 assists.
- ASU played a clean game, with only 13 fouls. If they keep fouls and turnovers low, they can compete against any team in the conference.
- We're huge fans of the starting five, but the Sun Devils need to find more depth on the bench. Perhaps the return of Colvin will help, but we'd like to see Felix get more time to regroup his explosiveness during a breather.
- Both Carrick Felix and Jonathan Gilling recorded double-doubles in last night's win.
- The starting five (Carson, Felix, Gilling, Gordon and Bachynski) have started all 19 games for ASU in 2012-13.
- Eric Jacobsen is the only bench player that has played in every game this season.
- With the win, ASU is now 15-4 with 12 regular season games left. We believe that the Sun Devils need to win at least 9 or 10 more games to make the NCAA Tournament. Realistically, they will need to win at least once or twice in the conference tournament.