Late basket pushes Sun Devils past USC Trojans in an instant classic
TEMPE, Ariz. — Remy Martin’s shot to win the game with 19 seconds left epitomized the second half of the Sun Devils’ 64-62 win against the USC Trojans at Desert Financial Arena on Saturday night in Tempe.
Martin’s jumper hit the rim and must have made three or four rotations as fans and players sat at the edge of their seat.
The ball could have easily rolled out, giving USC (17-7, 6-5) one last chance to win the game before overtime, or fall and put Arizona State (15-8, 6-4) up with a good chance to take the game.
“As it was rolling I was just like, “please … at this moment just drop through the hole,” Martin said, adding the elbow-line shot was something that he was struggling to hit all night.
Thankfully for the Sun Devils and the fans who attended the game, the ball fell the Sun Devils way.
Throughout the second half, it was really anybody’s game once Arizona State got their first lead on a Rob Edwards 3-point shot with 12 minutes left in the game.
The largest lead for each team after that point was four.
Arizona State’s biggest deficit was 13 points in the first half, as they went into the locker room trailing by eight points.
The Sun Devils opened the second half outscoring USC 25-13, and grabbing a 57-53 lead.
This was fueled by something that drastically improved in the win against UCLA on Feb. 6 — the long-range shot.
After making 14 3-point shots in the victory – which was tied for the third-best in the Hurley era – Arizona State hit another eight in the win against USC.
Prior to the game against UCLA, Arizona State was dead-last in the 3-point shot.
It appeared they may have reverted back to their old ways in the first half, making only two-of-their-first 12 3-point baskets, but a stretch of four-of-six 3-pointers made to open the second half provided the bump needed to get Arizona State back in the game.
However, the offense went cold after that, making only one field goal in the final ten minutes.
The burst that gave Arizona State the lead was one of the only true offensive consistencies in the game for the Sun Devils, as Arizona State shot just 31.3% on the night.
“Some of it is a credit to them and their size, we didn’t play well at the end of the floor, but we had the will to win and found a way,” Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley said.
When the offense struggled, the defense came up big.
The Sun Devils held USC to only three field goals in the final eight minutes, keeping Arizona State in the game.
Arizona State’s defense was suffocating throughout the contest, forcing the Trojans to turn the ball over 16 times in the second half, doubling their total from the first half.
“We didn’t let our maybe inefficiencies on offense filter over to our defense,” Hurley said. “Our defense was pretty rock solid.”
In fact, Arizona State’s defensive effort gave Martin the opportunity to be the hero.
After Alonzo Verge Jr. drained two free throws to bring the Sun Devils within three points, Arizona State forced USC to turn the ball over on the inbound pass.
Martin was fouled on a 3-point attempt that sent him to the line where he made all three chances and tied the game at 64 a-piece.
This capped a great night for Arizona State at the free-throw line, where they hit 16-of-20.
Up by two points with the clock approaching zero, the Sun Devils contested a long 3-point attempt, causing it to miss and securing an Arizona State victory.
In addition to making the game-winning shot, Martin led the Devils with 22 points after only scoring six in the first half. The junior also had five rebounds and three assists.
Verge Jr. was instrumental in keeping Arizona State close in the first half, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Cherry hurt on the final play
On the last play of the game, Sun Devil forward Taeshon Cherry landed awkwardly and was helped off the court. Hurley said Cherry will be looked at on Monday as the team will not have practice on Sunday.
Having won five-of-their-last six games, the Sun Devils hit the road to play Stanford on Feb. 13. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. Catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.