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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils never trail in 77-72 win over No. 3 seed USC, will face Arizona Friday

A top-tier performance when they needed it most

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - USC vs Arizona State Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — In the biggest game of the season, Arizona State (22-11) scored first and never relinquished its lead in a 77-72 win over USC (22-10) in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Thursday night.

According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Sun Devils were a win-away from his projected “Last Four In” before the USC game Thursday. With a victory, Lunardi, and most bracketologists, project the Sun Devils in Dayton’s First Four.

Desmond Cambridge Jr. (game-high 27 points) and DJ Horne (16) scored early three-pointers to boost the Sun Devils to an 8-0 lead. They would never look back.

“(I am) just really pleased with our performance tonight,” coach Bobby Hurley said. “The way we started, how efficient we were on offense, guys really stepped up in a big game and got us off to a great start, especially on the offensive end.”

In the first half, the ASU lead reached 15 points at its highest, and the Sun Devils took a 39-25 lead into halftime. Cambridge Jr. was already 3-for-5 from three. ASU was shooting 40% from the field. They forced seven turnovers in a stubborn effort defensively.

Even while shooting 17-for-28 from the free-throw line, the Sun Devils led by ten-plus points for the majority of the second half. Its slimmest lead was four points at 74-70 immediately preceding an intentional foul by USC to force free throws late.

“USC’s a really good team,” Hurley said. “It feels great because we know how good they are, and they’re an NCAA Tournament team, and one of the best defensive teams in the country, and have two guys that could take over a game. So when you’re able to accomplish something like that you feel great about it.”

ASU finished the game shooting a jaw-dropping 43.8% (14-for-32) from deep. Horne, Devan Cambridge and Jamiya Neal all collected a pair of three-pointers.

Cambridge Jr. also added eight rebounds to his team-high 27 points. Only Warren Washington had more rebounds for ASU with eight.

The Sun Devils now advance to the Pac-12 semifinal-round where they will face in-state rival Arizona (26-6), the conference’s No. 2 seed. Friday’s game against the Wildcats will tip-off at 9:30 p.m. AZ time.

“(There are) lot of things that we’re going to have to do in order to have some success tomorrow night,” Hurley said. “But it’s what you live for. To be in the semifinals of a tournament like this with the teams that are still left, we feel like blessed and just can’t wait for the opportunity.”