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Put it in the bank: Arizona State rallies to defeat USC

Arizona State's Mickey Mitchell, right, Shannon Evans II, middle, and guard Tra Holder, left, celebrate as time expires during an NCAA college basketball game against Southern California Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Southern California 80-78. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Cash. Not straight cash. Just cash.

That’s how Shannon Evans II explained his game-tying 3-pointer which preceded Tra Holder’s game-winner; the latter made with 1.4 seconds left to push Arizona State past USC, 80-78, in front of 12,377 at Wells Fargo Arena late Thursday night.

Evans II scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, including five three-pointers.

“I felt like the ball was going in for me in the second half. I had some room,” he said. “You know what I’m saying. Cash. That was the only thing that was going through my head at that time. Cash. I got to make that happen.”

Evans, Holder, Kodi Justice and Remy Martin each made field goals as the Suns Devils closed the game on a 9-0 run to erase a seven-point deficit.

The Trojans did not score the final 2:28 of the game.

“You have to become more perfect in that situation with the deficit,” head coach Bobby Hurley said. “When you have the heart and the will to win that, especially our seniors have and they lead the way—Shannon did that with the big 3. Tra with the final shot. It was Remy’s defense. It was a lot of things that happened.

“It feels like a blur.”

Hurley elected not to call a timeout with the game tied and the clock inching closer and closer to triple zeroes. Instead, he trusted his senior play-makers and Holder delivered, banking in an off-balance floater left of the lane.

“Most definitely I wanted to take the last shot, or close to the last shot,” he said. “And then when I got in the lane, I saw No. 4 (Chimezie Metu) waiting for me so I kind of had to shoot a little fadeaway shot.

“We work on those shots all the time.”

Holder finished with a game-high 22 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field.

Before Thursday, ASU (18-6, 6-6) had not won the first game of a two-game Pac-12 set, failing in its previous five attempts.

And it’s the first time the Sun Devils have won back-to-back games since mid-December.

“Probably half the country didn’t see it,” Hurley deadpanned, alluding to the 9 p.m. tip-off. “It was a great game, great finish.”

ASU won despite missing 12 free throws (20-of-32), but they protected the basketball better than USC, which turned it over 18 times—which the Sun Devils converted into 14 points—compared to ASU’s six.

USC (17-8, 8-4) has now lost two straight after a six-game winning streak.

For the Sun Devils, the win was an important one. Far too many times this season they’ve been on the other end, losing a close ballgame.

“People are saying we’re a bubble team now, so every game right now is crucial. And the goal is to play in the (NCAA) Tournament in March. That’s everybody’s goal. Every game right now is crucial,” Evans said. “I know we’re .500 in conference and we did, like, great out of conference whatever, but nothing matters no more. It’s game-by-game, and that’s how we’re taking it.”

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