Coming into this weekend’s games against the Los Angeles schools, Arizona State is on the outside looking in. They are playing for pride more or less at this point with their record only two games above .500. The talk about a possible NIT bid to me is all talk. This team has to look at playing spoiler the rest of the Pac-12 season. With the USC Trojans in town on Friday night it was a major opportunity to play the spoiler role due to the Trojans being in second place behind the Oregon Ducks in the conference.
The Trojans needed a win to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12, but coming out of the gate they acted like they could just show up and win the game. Not so fast USC. The Sun Devils came out and made life miserable for the Trojans by challenging shots and getting some early turnovers. However, if you are going to swim with the big dogs in the conference you have to hit some shots yourself.
The Devils thought the three ball was the way to go to beat the Trojans. They tried, and tried, and tried, but their three point attempts would not go down for them. It was a brick laying show for the Devils and the crowd was getting restless with all the three ball shots. One of the reasons for all the outside shots was the size of the Trojans.
Head Coach Andy Enfield has some good, athletic size on his Trojan squad. They have four guys who are 6’10” or bigger, they all play, and they all CAN play. In fact, the Trojans have 11 out 12 players that are 6’5” or bigger. If you are going to go inside on USC you better have some good size yourself. The Sun Devils don’t have the size that Trojans do, so getting inside was tough for them.
What the Sun Devils did was try and use some of the quickness they possess and get around the bigs of the Trojans. It worked a bit for them and they were getting “hustle” baskets by not giving up on plays and at the half the Trojans were only down three 30-27.
Much like the Oregon game, the Sun Devils were hanging tough at the half, only to get blown out in the end. Could they turn their fortunes around this time?
Instead of coming out flat and letting USC dictate tempo, the Sun Devils took it right to the Trojans and steadily built a lead of anywhere of five to nine points. Every little threat the Trojans made the Sun Devils turned away.
The hustle plays made a difference for the Sun Devils on Friday night. Arizona State was diving on the floor for balls, getting balls that were just bouncing around loose, and these bounces were finally bouncing the Devils way.
“We were forcing turnovers and our activity was really good. I am very happy with the effort tonight.” Said Sun Devil Head Coach Bobby Hurley.
What do the Trojans have to do now?
They absolutely have to win in Tucson against Arizona, so they don’t go back to Los Angeles being swept by the Arizona schools. The loss tonight gives the Oregon Ducks breathing room at the top of the conference for right now. Anything can happen in the Pac-12 Conference, so the Trojans are not out of it, but they made it a little tougher on themselves on Friday night.
The Trojans have to get better at playing with a sense of urgency, taking every opponent seriously, and from what I saw in this game they have to improve their defensive rotations. They were slow all night against the Sun Devils and if they want to win the conference and make any noise in the NCAA tournament they have to lock down better on the defensive end.
The Devils won this game with timely shooting, hustle for loose balls, and good free throw shooting in the second half. This is the first time all season that the Sun Devils looked like a team. All facets of the game came together against a quality opponent. Like I said earlier, the role of spoiler is what the Sun Devils are pretty much relegated to for the remainder of the season, but any win is a good win and the Sun Devils will enjoy this 74-67 win over the USC Trojans.