Facing a ranked opponent on the road is never easy in college basketball.
Try doing it without your coach. Or without several key players.
Such were the circumstances facing Arizona State (6-11, 2-5 Pac-12) as they squared off in Los Angeles against the USC Trojans (17-2, 7-2) in a game where the final score betrayed just how well the Sun Devils began the game.
Without head coach Bobby Hurley and rotational guard Jay Heath, (both suspended by the Pac-12 after a confrontation with officials after the team’s loss to Stanford on Saturday) as well as Kimani Lawrence (illness), the Sun Devils burst out to a 22-10 lead to open the contest.
But the Trojans caught fire late in the first half, and turned their double-digit deficit into a 31-24 advantage by the halftime horn.
There was little response from the Sun Devils in the second half, which could not take advantage of some phenomenal shooting by guard DJ Horne, and the Sun Devils were blown out 78-56.
Keep in mind that Arizona State is still missing Marcus Bagley, who was expected to lead the team in scoring this season but has instead been out since the third game of the season with a knee issue. In total, only seven scholarship players were dressed for the game, and the lack of depth showed in the final 20 minutes.
In a bright spot for the team, Marreon Jackson played one of his best games as a Sun Devil in a 21-point performance with five 3-pointers. Jalen Graham continued his strong play with 15 points, and Horne was third on the team with 14 points.
In a similar storyline to recent losses, Arizona State did well to hang with their opponents in the first half, but faltered offensively in the second and couldn’t stop an avalanche of 3-pointers from their opponents. In this contest, USC shot above 50 percent from the field and made 50 percent of their 3-point attempts.
The schedule gets no easier for the Sun Devils as they turn the page and find No. 3 Arizona lurking on Saturday. The Sun Devils are currently on a run of five games against opponents ranked inside the Top 15.