Needless to say, picking up just one win on the road trip would have been considered a major victory for Bobby Hurley’s undermanned team.
But despite a furious effort, the Sun Devils (9-11, 2-5 Pac-12) ultimately fell short of that goal, dropping their final game before returning home in a 82-79 loss against USC (17-4, 4-4) on Sunday night. The team has now dropped four straight, and five of their last six, games.
While a strong second half made things close, the Trojans controlled the ballgame for the majority of the first 20 minutes.
After a three-pointer from Obinna Oleka cut Arizona State’s deficit to 17-14, a quick 9-2 run extended the home team’s lead to double digits. That advantage would stay in USC’s favor for the remainder of the first stanza, and when shooting guard Jordan McLaughlin banked in a half-court shot at the final buzzer, Andy Enfield’s club took a 45-38 lead into the locker rooms.
That lead would be extended to as many as 12 points on two separate occasions in the second half, but a determined Sun Devil team slowly battled back to make things interesting.
In a span of four-plus minutes, the visitors from Tempe used a 15-4 binge to make the score 63-62 with nine minutes remaining. The burst was spearheaded by a combined effort from multiple Arizona State players, as four different Sun Devils scored in that stretch to get the team back into the game.
Ultimately, however, the comeback effort would prove to be all for naught.
The deeper Trojan team was able to take advantage of some foul trouble for the Maroon and Gold, extending their lead to as many as 14 before the night came to an end.
The final score was 82-79, a late flurry of points from Arizona State allowing the team to put one last scare into USC.
Trojan guard Elijah Stewart led all scorers with 29 points despite fouling out in this one, while the Sun Devils were paced by a 24-point effort from senior Torian Graham.
Every one of Hurley’s starters finished the night in double digits, but the team ended the game without a single point from its bench.
Arizona State’s NIT hopes took a hit on this trip, as a team under .500 has never been selected for the tournament. The good news, however, is that the schedule eases up considerably now.
Three of its next four games are against the three worst teams in the Pac-12, and another two-game homestand awaits the Sun Devils after that.
That stretch will start on Wednesday, when Arizona State hosts Washington at Wells Fargo Arena. Tipoff is set for 9:00 p.m. MST and the game will be televised on ESPNU.