With 14 ticks left on the game clock, and the Arizona State Sun Devils were just mere seconds away from their first road sweep under head coach Bobby Hurley.
Trojans’ senior forward Bennie Boatwright had other ideas. Catching a chest-high pass from redshirt junior guard Derryck Thornton, Boatwright sank a three point jumper, and the hopes of the loud Sun Devil faithful inside the Galen Center.
“They set a very good screen, and we didn’t get through it well enough,” said Hurley about Boatwright’s clutch shot. “He did get a very good look. He’s one of the better players in the league and in a big spot he made a good shot.”
USC (12-8, 5-2) held the advantage throughout the second half on their way to the 69-67 victory. Arizona State (14-6, 5-3) turned the ball over 15 times in the ballgame, including 10 in the second half.
The Sun Devils will be kicking themselves for plenty of missed opportunities. Notably, failing to take control of the game when Boatwright and junior forward Nick Rakocevic sat with four fouls in the second half. USC’s front court gave the Sun Devils fits all night, totaling a combined 32 points and 13 rebounds.
“Where this game kind of got away from us was when Boatwright got out of the game with fouls,” said Hurley. “We were plus-four and then he sat for several minutes and we were doing some really bad things out there and we were minus-12 during that stretch.”
However, that wasn’t the toughest moment of the contest.
After forcing a missed three-point attempt, redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham grabbed a big rebound and was immediately fouled. Heading to the line with a one-and-one in front of him, his foul shot clanked off the back of the rim and into USC’s hands.
Boatwright took care of the rest.
Even more tough to swallow was that ASU was outstanding from the charity stripe all game. The Sun Devils made 22-of-25 foul shots during the game, rebounding well from all of their early season struggles at the line.
Despite Boatwright’s heroics, Arizona State had a good chance to tie or steal the win. Sophomore guard Remy Martin took the ball up the floor and quickly found freshman guard Luguentz Dort, who missed a three-point attempt.
“I’m the point guard. I take accountability, it’s my responsibility to make a play and I didn’t,” said Martin on the final sequences of the game.
What was peculiar about the sequence was that ASU had two timeouts in its back pocket and chose not to use it until there were .8 seconds remaining in the game and the outcome seemed like a foregone conclusion.
It was not lost on Martin that his coach trusted him to go and make a play on his own without having to draw one up out of a timeout.
While this loss will sting for a little while, the Sun Devils won’t have long to hang their heads. They welcome the rival Arizona Wildcats to Tempe next Thursday for their lone game of the week coming up.
To say UA had a tough LA trip would be an understatement. They were embarrassed across the board by both the Bruins and Trojans as they played without junior forward Chase Jeter.
Jeter injured his back during Arizona’s win over Oregon State last week and remains sidelined.
ASU is also hoping to have back freshman forward Taeshon Cherry, who injured his head after taking an inadvertent elbow during the victory over UCLA. Hurley said Cherry remains in concussion protocol, as they missed his outside shooting on a night they were 31 percent as a team from the floor.