The lack of defense by both sides was apparent in Arizona State's overtime victory over the University of Southern California Trojans on Thursday night, but that doesn't make the win any less sweet.
The Devils, after allowing a game to go into overtime that had no business being there, managed to sneak by with a high-scoring 98-93 victory. This was the type of game that fans may not like to see, but freshman guard Jahii Carson had no problems playing in it.
"It's definitely the type of style we like to play, except for them scoring as much as us," Carson said. "It was a fast tempo game. We like teams that try to run up and down with us because that plays into our hands... I like those types of games."
One of the players that seems to thrive on the high octane style of play is ASU guard, Evan Gordon. Gordon followed up his great performance last weekend against the Arizona Wildcats, in which he scored 14 points, with a 28 effort against USC. It marked his second highest scoring output of the year, trailing only his 29 point game against Sacramento State on December 1st. He also made 7 of his 9 free throws and ran point guard while Carson was out of the game due to Chris Colvin's absence.
"I just kind of know I need to step up," Gordon said of what he has been doing right the past three games. "Me, specifically, I know I need to step up from the beginning of the year. With a game like this, I can just keep building on it from the last game and into the next game."
"He's a good player," ASU Coach Herb Sendek said of his junior guard. "I just kept sticking with him early on because I've seen him play in practice all last year. I've seen what he can do.
"It's just a matter of him staying the course. He's good enough and I've seen him do it in practice so many times. Tonight, he played a heck of a game for us."
The Devils' defensive effort, especially against three-point shooters, is what should have fans somewhat worried. They allowed the Trojans to shoot 15-28 from downtown, albeit if many of them were difficult shots. A long three ball from J.T. Terrell put the Trojans within three of the Devils with 21 seconds remaining. Another wild three-point shot from Jio Fontan tied the game at 85 with 0.4 seconds remaining.
"We were trying to contest them as best we could," Jahii Carson said. "They're coming off screens and we have our hands in their face. One guy did a 360... At least we got the 'W'."
"I didn't think we were great on defense tonight," Sendek said. "I'm giving them a lot of credit for making tough shots. Especially in the first half, before some of the amazing shots were made, I don't think we were anywhere near good enough on defense."
One of the biggest reasons all of those three-pointers hurt so bad was because of ASU's poor foul shooting. The Devils have struggled from the free throw line all season and tonight was no different in that regard. Shooting at a 25-36 clip from the charity stripe inevitably helped USC push the game into overtime. The sad part is, Arizona State led the Trojans 80-71 with just 2:30 to go, but missing a bevy of free tosses hurt them in the end.
"We haven't been a very good free throw shooting team all season," Sendek said. "We missed 11 tonight."
Once again, it may have been senior center Ruslan Pateev who made the difference in overtime in the same way he did in the OT game against Utah. His effort had the crowd energized as he blocked a crunch time shot and dived on the floor for a loose ball.
"I also mentioned to the team how proud I am of Ruslan," Coach Sendek said. "He didn't get off to the best of starts in his senior year. In fact, there were some games he didn't play. How easy would it be to throw in the towel? Yet, I think he's taught us all great lessons of how to be unconditionally in, how to keep persevering."
The Devils have now improved their record to 15-4, including a 4-2 record in conference play. Their next game comes on Saturday as they host the UCLA Bruins at 2:00 PM.